Under the Direction of Yves Charpenel
Deputy General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of France
President of the Fondation Scelles
3rd Global Report
A growing menace
49, rue Héricart, 75015 Paris, France
Excerpt from the Dictionary of the French Academy
PROSTITUTION n. 13th century, meaning of "debauchery"; 18th century, the current meaning. From the Latin prostitutio, "prostitution, desecration."
The act of having sexual relations in exchange for payment; activity consisting in practicing regularly such relations. The law does not prohibit prostitution, only soliciting and procuring.
Entering into prostitution. A prostitution network. Clandestine, occasional prostitution.
ANCIENT MEANING. Sacred prostitution, practiced by the female servants of the goddesses of love or fertility in certain temples and for the profit of these goddesses, in some countries of the Middle East and of the Mediterranean. The Aphrodite temple, in Corinth, was a place where sacred prostitution was practiced. Fig. Degradation, defilement to which one consents by desire of goods, honors, etc. He refuses to prostitute his talent. The prostitution of the awareness.
« The proceeds from the sale of this book will be given directly
to the Fondation Scelles »
Translated from the original French Edition
Exploitation sexuelle – Une menace qui s’étend © Ed. Economica 2014
Translation copyright © Ed. ECONOMICA, 2014
All reproduction, translation, execution and adaptation rights are reserved for all countries
This publication is the result of work by a group of researchers from the Centre de Recherches Internationales et de Documentation sur l’Exploitation Sexuelle (CRIDES, Centre for International Research and Documentation on Sexual Exploitation) of Fondation Scelles and external collaborators.
We warmly thank them for all of their work.
Researchers and volunteers of Fondation Scelles and of CRIDES
Aurélie Bezault, Frédéric Boisard, Cécile Brotero Duprat, Dominique Charpenel, Yves Charpenel, Floriane Choplain, Fiona Connors, Maureen Curtius, Mary Delaroche Taieb, Barbara Giroud, Catherine Goldmann, AnnPôl Kassis, Marie Larotte, Thérèse Lothe, Dania Mardini, Sonia Line Mbopda Ngoupeyou, Clara Méjan, Fanny Méjan, Sophie Menegon, Claudia Nannini, Roxane Noverraz, Anne Pascal, Cathie Paumier, Céline Pigot, Morgane Revel, Gaëlle Saoût, Anna Skipper, Clémentine Soulié, Hélène Soulodre, Caroline Torres, Marie-Claire Verniengeal, François Vignaud.
Lieutenant-colonel Eric Panloup, national coordinator of “Lutte contre la traite des êtres humains (The fight against human trafficking) of the Inter-Ministerial Mission for the Protection of Women against Violence and the Fight against Human Trafficking (MIPROF)
Myriam Quémener, Magistrate, Deputy State Counsel responsible for the Criminal Division at the French court of first instance in civil and criminal matters of Créteil
Emily St-Denny, Doctorate in Political Science, School of Arts and Humanities, at Nottingham Trent University
Marta Torrès Herrero Scelles, Lawyer
We also extend our gratitude to the Editing Committee composed of some members of the Board of Directors of the Fondation Scelles for their participation and pertinent remarks.
Our translation team:
Willy Andrews, AnnPôl Kassis, Greta Olivares, Thomas Peny-Coblentz, Marie Pichon, Gaëlle Saoût, Rachel Thimke, Deborah Thomas, Marie-Claire Verniengeal, Raymond Wright, Maxine Zeger.
Coordinator of the book:
Sandra Ayad, Head of the CRIDES
It is an honor for me to introduce this new report of the Fondation Scelles, because it addresses a subject close to my heart, and the social and ethical issues it implies are considerable.
To understand the necessity of the efforts of the Fondation Scelles, we must share this paradox: most often, the importance of the phenomenon of sexual exploitation is equal to the ignorance of its causes and its effects. This global scourge, whose criminal networks transcend borders and encompasses new victims every day, remains highly misunderstood.
Indeed there is still a lack of accurate data on the reality of sexual exploitation - and more generally on human trafficking - and our citizens are insufficiently aware. Our efforts must be underpinned by a detailed knowledge and analysis of the facts, and it can only be fully effective with the awareness of all. This book has the great merit of putting information at the service of action.
I am especially proud to introduce this report based on the two imperatives - act and inform - which have guided me throughout my professional life. In my fight for access to victims' rights, I have always been concerned with articulating knowledge and effectiveness, establishing concrete mechanisms and citizen awareness. My commitment is based on this conviction: the exploitation of other human beings should not be reduced to individual tragedies, but instead is everyone's business.
Act and inform are also the twin goals assigned by the Inter-ministerial Mission on the Protection of Women against Violence (MIPROF) and the fight against human trafficking, of which I have the honor to be the Secretary. The Minister responsible for Women's Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, has demonstrated a strong political will by mandating the Miprof to establish a three-year national plan of action against the human trafficking before the end of 2013.
This plan aims to make the fight against human trafficking public policy in its own right, focusing on improving knowledge and the need for cooperation at all levels of the problem. The approach should indeed be as comprehensive as possible, because these forms of modern slavery are multiple: procurement, domestic servitude, child trafficking, organ trafficking, forced begging, forced to commit crimes, etc. Faced with such criminal practices, one must both strengthen existing legislation and facilitate access to justice for victims. For it is not enough to have rights without the knowledge or ability to exercise them.
Every citizen can also be a witness to these human tragedies in their daily activities without knowing how to react. In the logic of prevention and accountability, our first action will be launching a national campaign of information and public awareness.
Such objectives are in perfect harmony with those that are presented in this book. This edition of the Fondation Scelles proves to be, like the previous, precious in more ways than one. It begins with a detailed picture of sixty-six countries, thus highlighting the international dimension of the phenomenon. To this necessary description is added a critical perspective in the form of a series of articles that put into perspective the major issues that have marked the year 2012.
These analyses - each written by a specialist in the matter - tell us about the tragic reality of the phenomenon of sexual exploitation, and also the many misrepresentations, of which there are many! Facing some stereotypes of the practices of procuring - which sometimes border on naivety - this report recalls some indisputable facts. Prostitution is not a matter of "consent," but exploitation. And it does not strike at random, as its victims are primarily those affected by poverty and insecurity. This observation also applies to other phenomena such as the trafficking of minors, for which the issues of early identification and support are, as the report shows, particularly crucial.
Fighting against human trafficking is to fight those who prey on social fragility as their business. This is a real battle against organized crime, but it also goes to the voluntary statement of principles and values. Denouncing and punishing these criminal acts is to show both firmness and humanity: humanity to the victims that must be protected; firmness to all those who enjoy and participate in this operation, that is to say both the exploiters and the customers.
Taking part in this struggle, one must remember that the body is not a commodity and that human dignity is not an empty word. It is advancing our civilization by not accepting any form of complacency in the face of what is a denial of our most basic rights. It is thus to be welcomed as it is in France, a country of humanism and human rights from which this report global emerged.
"Know, understand, fight," is the motto of the Fondation Scelles, and I cannot help but agree. Because ignorance is no longer an excuse and because political victims cannot do without real support from the public, it is necessary that human trafficking in all its forms is recognized as a problem of general interest.
Lately, many news events have, in various ways, been giving visibility and importance to these forms of exploitation hitherto ignored or trivialized. We must now go further to widespread awareness, giving our citizens more keys to understanding these issues.
The debate is launched, it should now be lit. This book, I am sure, will help contribute.
General Secretary of the “Mission interministérielle pour la protection des femmes contre les violences” – (MIPROF - Inter-ministerial mission for the protection of women against violence and for the fight against human trafficking)
The Fondation Scelles, for the third consecutive year, presents the Global Report on the evolution of sexual exploitation throughout the year. This report is an informational tool that aims to be as objective as possible.
We find human trafficking for sexual exploitation and, more generally, prostitution is growing rapidly. The number of victims, most often the most vulnerable members of our societies, is increasing, and they suffer the consequences. Trafficking and prostitution will not stop increasing, if we do not oppose it.
Indeed, the causes of poverty in the world are numerous: wars, population growth in certain countries, corruption, bad government directors, natural catastrophes etc. Criminal networks profit from the vulnerability of certain people to trick them and force them into prostitution. They seek to gain more and risk less. Prostitution is a global problem that accumulates the most money, after the sale of weapons and the drugs.
Some countries, who wanted to institutionalize and control prostitution, find their failure. Others have signed agreements to counter human trafficking. But, although these laws exist, there is a lack of political will to implement them. In contrast, countries such as Sweden, have established laws and a program of action that proved successful.
We note, for some time, the emergence of associations of "survivors," consisting of people who left prostitution. They dared not speak, because of threats on them. Now they tell us the unspeakable violence that they endured during their years of prostitution and they keep indelible marks.
We want to especially thank all those who contributed to this book, which is the result of a collaborative effort: the staff of the Fondation Scelles, many scholars motivated by the subject, as well as members of NGOs and grassroots organizations, which in all countries have provided information.
Philippe Scelles Yves Scelles
Honorary President Vice President
Presenting each year the state of the world plagued by the threat of sexual exploitation is a project born here three years ago. We provide a simple but disturbing analysis of the constant development of particularly violent yet strangely underestimated forms of enslavement.
How can we not be struck by the growing global crime reality, inspired by profit and ruthlessly exploiting all forms of vulnerability?
How can we not see the usual representatives of the world of prostitution, who are trying to trivialize or deny the unbearable features of this complex universe, multiple and evolving?
This striking contrast is reflected more than ever in this third Global Report.
Like its predecessors, this report aims both to present the evolution of the phenomenon in selected countries, where the sources and documentation allow the most objective analysis possible, and to illustrate the dominant themes of a real threat.
Certainly the sentiment, which can be derived from the sequence of facts, figures and trends of sexual exploitation today, is not likely to maintain the illusion of a peaceful and harmonious world.
You will however find reasons for hope and possible motivations for mobilization. The goal of the third Global Report is indeed to help open your eyes to a disturbing reality, to take a step back, and to reflect on the causes and effects, and to identify the conditions for improvement.
In this respect, the past year has been one of debates and perspectives, particularly in France where, finally, a public debate ensued on the four pillars of a policy that aims to reduce sexual exploitation:
- prevention first, with the start of the construction of a national action plan to fight against stereotypes and clichés that no longer, if they ever, have anything to do with the reality of prostitution as it really is, here and now;
- then the rehabilitation with the hope that these "invisible victims," who are the vast majority of prostitutes, become full citizens;
- the suppression of course, better proportioned criminal response to the severity of the crime;
- finally deterrence, with the ability to empower the client, who by creating demand, creates a range of increasingly diverse violations of basic human rights.
Thus, our report, the result of the relentless efforts of the Fondation Scelles for 20 years, hopefully responds to these two cardinal requirements: the provision for the greatest number of indisputable data of a phenomenon whose advances are often hidden, and the refusal to see this violence and exploitation operating with impunity.
The weapons we have are, more than ever, the ability to stay indignant when others are resigned, the desire to expand our partnerships and modes of expression, the conviction to abolish the prostitution system (a fight which is not a utopia but a coherent project) and, of course, rigorous analysis.
This year, an increasing number of countries have been addressed with the help of nearly 40 contributors, researchers, volunteers of the Fondation Scelles, and outside collaborators. We thank them, because they made this book a truly collective work, which like its predecessors, is called to serve as a reference both here and elsewhere.
President of the Fondation Scelles
Deputy General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of France
What's new in 2012?
A phenomenon that continues to develop
First situations do not change, but they get worse. The number of prostitutes increases and sexual exploitation is more vast than ever, as the global market welcomes all nationalities. For example: in South Africa, prostitutes come from China, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe etc.
As a result of the crisis in the global economy, students, housewives, and unemployed women have increasingly resorted to prostitution, occasionally or permanently, to supplement their monthly income and to try to escape a precarious situation. Today in Greece, for example, there is a considerable development in clandestine prostitution.
Youth at risk
An increasing number of young children, sometimes very young, are exposed to the risk of prostitution. The situations are all different: children offered to sex tourists (Thailand, Brazil...), child victims of trafficking for the purpose of the removal of organs but also prostitution, street children, children sold by their impoverished families...
It is not necessary, however, to go to Thailand or Madagascar to "consume" minors or young adults. In our western cities, boys and girls barter sex to consumers or are prostituted by procurers as their young "new look" called loverboys, who are seduced in order for procurers to be able to better exploit them. And the client can act with impunity or close to it, such as in 2012, the Swiss still allowed prostitution of young people of 16 years.
The death of a young student, victim of a particularly savage gang rape in India, the aggression of a Pakistani teenager who defended the right to education for girls, the rise of fundamentalist governments in the Maghreb in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, have all deeply affected the news in 2012. These events remind all that discrimination against women and sexual exploitation persist in parts of the world.
To a widespread awareness
Year after year, these realities upset more of our societies. Topics related to the sexual exploited were never discussed as much as they were in 2012; the release of a film, the appearance of a folder in a magazine, a news item or a sex scandal constituted in various ways an opportunity for discussion. The case of Carlton in Lille in France, the Berlusconi trial in Italy, the acquittal of 13 people accused of procuring in Argentina, the serial murders of prostitutes in Rwanda, among other examples, have sparked debates in the media and led to personal reflections on the realities of sexual exploitation.
Beyond the public alarm, states are beginning to address the problem. Governments conduct studies, legislators create special commission, and the media provokes debates, but this is a generalized statement. Today, a growing number of countries, who consider issues related to sexual exploitation, are aware of their severity and seek to provide adequate responses.
The debate around sexual exploitation: which approaches, what questions?
However, the debate is complex and there are many questions: what is prostitution? How does one define it? How does one reduce demand, abuse, violence, and exploitation? How does one face the stranglehold of crime? How does one improve the right to equal access to health care for all prostitutes? What legal regime should be adopted to combat it? Several lines of thought stand.
The media in question
The role played by the media (press, television, social networks etc.) is periodically challenged on two fronts. First, they are accused of promoting all forms of exploitation by the publication of advertisements of "sexual services." In some countries, these facts are openly denounced and actions are taken to counter them. Israel and Argentina, among others, have enacted laws banning such advertisements. Spain has also opened the debate. But these publications represent a financial goldmine, which is difficult to control. In 2010, the United States succeeded in closing the adult ads section of a classified ad website called Craigslist, because many of them involved minors. But Backpage has taken over and represented, in February 2012, 80% of the earnings of prostitution through the internet, including some involving minors.
Second, one accuses the media of trying to convey an attractive image of prostitution, made of glamor and fun. Denunciations of NGOs and feminist networks have difficulty reaching the general public. However, the image of women, and especially children in the media, and the sexualization of the body, have become topics of debate. In 2012, the report of the French Senator Chantal Jouanno clearly opened the discussion on this topic.
The regulationist failure
The Netherlands, Germany (which "celebrated " in 2012 the 10th anniversary of the legalization of prostitution), Australia, and New Zealand, countries that have chosen to regulate prostitution, are now a failure. The exploitation of women in an allegedly controlled prostitution environment, has been undermined by illegal and hidden prostitution invading the legal field. Prostitutes have virtually no access to social opportunities. The only real beneficiaries of the law are "directors" of institutions and procurers.
In these countries, a growing number of elected officials do not hesitate to denounce an exploitative world of violence and crime. At the local level, bordering areas to prostitution zones are pushing for a revision of the system. Some countries (the Netherlands and New Zealand) have been considering for several years changing their laws. There are rumors that the Netherlands and Germany are considering changing the minimum age of entry into prostitution to 21 (while civil majority is 18 in these countries), to better fight against child and young adult prostitution.
The client of the prostitution on the spot
Conversely, the reflection on the client of prostitution continued and deepened in 2012. The idea that the customer is at the origin of prostitution is increasingly recognized. Although the debate arises differently in different countries, client empowerment has emerged as the only path possible to improvement. Governments are discussing options, studying the Swedish model, conducting awareness campaigns, contemplating the possibility of penalizing the purchase of sexual services etc.
But evolution does not just happen. Sometimes change emerges first at the municipal level: in 2012, Chomutov, Czech Republic, and Limerick, Ireland, have anticipated a national policy and adopted bylaws on the client. Then discussions are established at national level. In 2012, Albania adopted a law criminalizing clients and Israel had a preliminary vote on a bill in this regard. Ireland and Scotland, ahead of the rest of the UK, discuss penalization options very seriously. Denmark also considered this possibility, but rejected it in 2012. In France, the Minister of Women's Rights wants to "abolish prostitution" and launched the debate on the client. Even countries that have legalized prostitution are studying these options. Thus, the Netherlands intends to sanction the clients of prostitutes, trafficked or undeclared. This is only a first step, but highly symbolic.
Brakes and lock towards changes
Government efforts to deal with these phenomena are evident but this does not mean that it leads to consistent and effective policies. Although the desire to change the law is present, projects stagnate year after year, are discussed and re-discussed, corrected and re-corrected without sufficient results. Where laws exist, enforcement is difficult: the number of convictions often remains low compared to reality of traffic and penalties given unrelated to the crime.
What prevents progress? The answers are varied, as shown in reading this book: corruption, which, in some countries, strikes judicial and police circles; the economic crisis has resulted in the reduction of budgets for social policies and, in particular, the fight against trafficking or support for victims; differences in legal regimes of other countries that make any changes difficult and block the action of public policy; the image of prostitution.
It is a real struggle that is played out today, and a fight that requires a strong commitment. In France, 55 associations of the collective Abolition 2012 lead the entire abolitionist struggle. Gathered in the premises of the National Assembly in November 2011, they presented their recommendations and called on parliamentarians to engage. A year later, it is in Europe that more than 200 associations gathered at Parliament in Brussels to launch a debate on the abolition of prostitution: "Together for a Europe Free from Prostitution".
Today, the European Parliament has a parliamentary committee to consider a policy change, and in France, at the time of writing, a bill was tabled in the National Assembly and should be discussed before the end of the year. Could 2013 be the year of change?
For the third consecutive year, the Fondation Scelles publishes its annual report on the state of sexual exploitation in the world.
The Journey since 2010
Like every year, this book is enriched with new analyses and reflections, new countries, and new themes. 24 countries from all continents and 9 themes at the heart of the news were in the 2010 edition1. In 2011, we offered an overview of 54 countries and 10 themes. In this 2012 edition, 11 themes and 66 countries are systematically studied.
One could say that from one year to the next, nothing changes and 2012 is very similar to 2011. Of course, situations evolve slowly, yet we believe that the changes and upcoming trends reside in that slow evolution. And it is giving us a critical decryption and as comprehensive as possible news, every year, in which we will identify the realities of commercial sexual exploitation today and consider responses.
The “most” of 2012
We find here most of the 54 countries covered in the previous editions. The principle of this book is indeed to analyze the facts in a limited time frame as to to better understand the evolution in each country.
14 new countries are also entering our study. So that, for the first time, we can analyze in more detail each region of the world: North America, Latin America, the Maghreb countries, the Middle East, Asia etc. A particular emphasis was placed on several African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. We also added several countries where the problem of sexual exploitation is both pertinent and misunderstood, such as Nepal and Burma.
The choice of topics follows the same logic. Some are recurring, because the facts they report never cease to evolve, "2012 Legal Responses" for example, takes stock of the judicial developments over the past year, while “Cybertrafficking and Cyberprocuring" provides an update of the "advance" of crime on the internet. Others were selected in response to strong current trends. Thus, "Sex and power" is marked by the joint work of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Silvio Berlusconi. Others, give valuable consideration to the current debate on the system of prostitution. For example, "Recurring arguments” challenges many stereotypes attached to prostitution.
Collection of facts
The items we produce are from a range of sources of various kinds, all confined to the year 2012: government reports, studies and findings from NGOs, reports of international organizations, academic research, information from our foreign correspondents, articles, polls, videos, stories etc.
Critical analysis of this data allows not only for the awareness of developments in each country during the past year, but also a grasp of the debates and controversies that have hit the headlines.
All sources used are available in the resource center of the Fondation Scelles, CRIDES (International Center for Research and Documentation on Sexual Exploitation). Since 1994, CRIDES monitors the daily press of a large part of the world and brings together new publications on topics related to sexual exploitation.
The team of researchers and editors
This study was carried out by:
- A team of international researchers (Norway, Spain, UK, Italy, USA etc.)
- Personalities from various studies (anthropology, sociology, political science, international relations, human rights, international law, fashion etc.)
- Field professionals (lawyers, judges, social workers, police officers, psychoanalysts etc.)
- A network of foreign correspondents who have nurtured and refined our analysis.
With this new edition our approach and our angle of attack expands, as we hope to deliver a broader vision than in previous years.
We are well aware that the analysis of 66 countries (out of 200 of the world) and a dozen themes can offer only fragmentary vision; but the goal is not so much to develop a comprehensive inventory, as to put the facts in a social, cultural and geopolitical context to better understand the phenomenon of sexual exploitation.
Data at the beginning of each text comes from the following sources:
The Population figures for 2012 come from the 2013 Report on Human Development of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP): http://hdrstats.undp.org/fr/indicateurs/306.html
The figures for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in 2012 (in dollars) come from of the World Bank: http://donnees.banquemondiale.org/indicateur/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD
The figures on the Human Development Index (HDI) in 2012 come from the 2013 Report on Human Development (pages 156-159) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP): http://www.undp.org/content/undp/fr/home/librarypage/hdr/human-development-report-2013/
Political regimes in different countries of the world from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/pays-zones-geo/
The figures for Gender Inequality Index (GII) in 2012 come from the 2013 Report on Human Development (pages 168-171) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) http://www.undp.org/content/undp/fr/home/librarypage/hdr/human-development-report-2013/
These analyses have the sole mission to put the national studies in an encrypted environment, to get an idea of the proportion of the population affected by the subject before us: the commercial sexual exploitation.
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In the press, in parliament or in everyday life, opposing philosophical concepts are regularly used to defend and justify the system of prostitution. Who has never heard about the distinction between the “good” and the “bad” prostitute, the one who chose to work in the domain and the one who was forced into it, the one who came from abroad as a victim of human trafficking and the one who was born in the country and works according to her own will?
The majority of these ideas appear evident, as long as people have not studied prostitution. Put forward as absolute truths immune from criticism, they reinforce an image of prostitution supported by those who benefit from the activity. An analysis of these concepts allows us to recognize if their counterarguments are pertinent or not; beyond that, it allows us to see whether or not these arguments or their counterarguments are true.
The status of the human being
Supporting the idea that sexuality, and by extension the human body, are neither rentable nor sellable is a moral position frequently condemned as abolitionist. But what makes “moral” reproachable? Human beings are undoubtedly gifted with reason, but also with emotions. Man is a social animal, but also a moral animal. All cultural constructions that human beings have put in place to build their universes are the fruits of this natural combination. It is therefore a moral position to want to keep the intimacy of the human body out of the market place. But it is also a moral position, strongly influenced by free market economics, to postulate that all goods should be sellable, including the human body.
The desire to make prostitution an official profession is part of this moral argument. By making the sale of sex legal, this system allows consumers to peacefully acquire immediate sexual satisfaction detached from obligation. Clients reduce prostitutes to the state of objects that they can use like any other good. Their reasoning is simple: if someone works as a prostitute, they want to do so. All other explanations – social determinism, vulnerability, economic contingencies, premature sexual exposure, and personal elements leading to prostitution – are not brought up. In order to get the most out of the client’s moral indifference, those who are pro-prostitution, in so far as they believe everything is purchasable, should not condemn organized crime networks nor child prostitution. Under their logic, these activities represent nothing more than another sale supported by the free market. In this line of reason, the idea of consent is not pertinent: would we ask a chair whether or not it accepts to be sold, so that it can be sat on?
If these individuals do not follow this line of reasoning to the end, by introducing the concept of “free choice” in their argument, it is precisely because they are well aware that the human body cannot be treated as a vulgar object. As their own justification shows, not everything is for sale, even though this idea might offend those who disagree.
As Aimé Césaire notes, it is much more difficult to be free than to be a slave. To accept slavery voluntarily allows us to access a substitute for liberty in so far as we can be satisfied by a limited identity without needing to dig further.
Freedom and Determinism
The claim that human trafficking must be condemned is one that generates consensus, at least in appearance. Prostitution that results from trafficking is logically presented as forced. Against this type of prostitution, we find that which is claimed to be “free,” chosen by the individual him/herself.
The freedom in question is not economic or political in nature. It is the freedom of the individual actor, as the master of his or her life, who possesses free will.This freedom, however, is challenged by the principal of causality, by virtue of which every event is determined by a multiplicity of prior events. No one enjoys hearing that, in essence, they are not free. The statement is taken as an infringement on what it means to be a human being. Yet studying the human psyche reveals the production of numerous sensations and emotions that remain incomprehensible to human beings in their daily lives2. Social sciences explain that choices, tastes, and lifestyle choices of individuals are largely determined by an array of given characteristics3. This argument around freedom of choice, as a result, appears entirely impertinent, in so far as it is affirmed without prior research into heavily complex details.
In the case of prostitution, for numerous people, a prostitute’s consent legitimizes and authorizes the action of the client. In this way, someone who is opposed to punishing the client sums up his/her belief with one simple sentence: “There surely exists another type of prostitution […]: a prostitution that can be qualified as ‘free’ since it claims itself as such.” (Libération, September 6th, 2012).
From that point forward, we can ask ourselves, following the example of SylvianeAgacinski, “What does ‘consent’ mean when it is formed through a mixture of need, unemployment, heavy demand of clientele, the corrosive power of money, and the lack of self-esteem?” (Le Nouvel Observateur, September 6th, 2012).
Just as confessions obtained under duress are inadmissible in court, it should be clear that consent to sell one’s body, under an immense economic, psychological and physical vulnerability, should be unacceptable.
The inaccuracy of analyzing prostitution in comparison to factory work
From the above distinction, those who are pro-prostitution continue to put forward the same critique: why aim to prohibit prostitution when it’s an activity that, according to them, gives more freedom than factory work?
When these arguments are read, another question immediately demands attention: if working conditions are truly more favorable in prostitution than in factory work, why do people continue to choose the factory over street sex?
Besides the fact that this critique is put forward without any form of argumentative support, it is a critique that can be quickly toppled by serious analysis. The amalgam between factory work and prostitution distorts the reality of what selling the human body for sex truly is. At first glance, factory work appears alienating, whereas prostitution appears to be an activity founded on sexual freedom (which it is not). But factory work only demands the individual’s physical capacity to produce an object. Prostitution uses the physical intimacy of an individual, and exploits sexuality, which belongs in the private sphere. If human culture places sexuality beside intimacy, it is not by chance. Reducing the act of sex to the movement of flesh is to deny what is at play in interpersonal relations, human exchange, emotional, spiritual and body language. It is the same as denying the humanity of the individual. Objectifying humans and sexual relations can result in serious and irreversible psychological damages. For this reason, a large number of prostitutes show physical and psychiatric symptoms equivalent to those suffered from soldiers of war. These symptoms include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, notably due to the numerous unwanted sexual relations and the violence involved.
Liberalism and consumption
One of the arguments most frequently used in favor of making prostitution an official profession is that it allows the full individual liberty to all to decide how to use his or her body. The defenders of prostitution recycle the language and arguments used by feminists in previous decades to support their proposition. According to their arguments, deciding how to use one’s body implies the power to exploit it, to sell it, to use it in any way desired.
Using language and arguments used for women’s rights allows these activists to give their cause veiled legitimacy, giving their audience the impression that they are fighting for “just” reasons.
This statement goes forward without difficulty, no matter who the interlocutor may be. Yet these two movements which appear to share a common element are, in reality, fully contradictory. Women fought so that they could no longer be reduced to a piece of flesh, valued only for sex and reproduction. Those who are pro-prostitution claim that they are continuing the same fight, advocating for total freedom for a woman to fully decide what she does with her body. But this decision, instead of giving a woman total control, subdues her into a totalitarian relationship that, more often than not, leads to her body’s destruction. In reality, the pro-prostitution is the antithesis of feminism, and fully reduces women back to the role of sexual object, under the pretext that, as a “voluntary” act, prostitution will give them freedom. The limits of this line of reason, and its blatant absurdity, deserve no further discussion.
“We know what’s good for you better than you do”
To discuss, critique, and change a situation, is it necessary to have lived it first? Many of those who are pro-prostitution argue that it is inacceptable for individuals who have neither sold nor bought sex to discuss or critique the activity.
As Marcel Crahay rightly notes in the context of the Allegory of the Cave4, “Empiricism has the force of evidence or, more precisely, the force of appearances”.
In the same way that previous generations believed the world to be flat, because their own perception was incapable of imagining a spherical world under their feet, we quickly believe that we can speak of something only through direct experience. By seeing, hearing, or living an event, we believe that we have an intimate knowledge, an inescapable truth, about whatever subject is at hand.
But this position, while pertinent in many cases, lacks the objectivity necessary to analyze serious questions such as prostitution and sexual exploitation. All knowledge acquired by direct contact renders the experience relative, according to its context, frequency, and the nature of the experience itself.
If those are prostitutes believe, in the same manner, that it is inappropriate or impossible to fully discuss prostitution without having experienced it directly, this feeling may be derived from the physical, psychological trauma they harbor, and which they consider incomprehensible for anyone who has not lived it.
“I don’t know how to be human – this is not a philosophical statement, it’s not to gain sympathy of pity – I say this because the sex industry has made me subhuman, a simple product to be consumed. I can imitate human beings, and find ways to integrate myself into their lives, but below my surface there is only emptiness”, declared Rebecca Mott, a former prostitute.
The position of someone who helps
It is from statements such as these that those who can only listen develop empathy for their fellow human being, feel a shared pain from the experience, and decide to help in his or her liberation. In no way is this process defined by an uncontrolled fall into compassion, nor does it stem from considering the other as a simple victim who needs to be saved. Instead, the process of empathy begins with the capacity to see the other as a person, to share experiences with him or her, and to do whatever possible to support his or her personal decisions.
Contrary to what has been said, such a development is not the result of paternalistic thinking, but humanist determination. In the masses, those who worry about prostitutes are rare. When they do, it is not by chance. These are the emotionally empathic individuals who aim to better life conditions for a certain section of the population. What better describes this work than humanism?
If, however, the recommendation of certain prostitutes to let them work “without wanting to save them” were respected, each organization that works day and night, that works to present the problems of sex slavery on the human, medical, and public levels, would have to disappear. Even though the goal of these organizations is to help those who have suffered from prostitution, it is important to not criticize or slander those who refuse their help, regardless of their political positions on the subject.
Considering that feminism is, above all, a humanism, if those aligned with the movement ignore the problem of prostitution completely, they have failed to uphold their own ideologies. At its origin, feminism is not a movement that advocates for a world dominated by women. It fights for the construction of a more just and equal society, in which the right of each individual to participate is not refused based on gender identity, social origins, or sexual orientation.
Not handling the issue of prostitution – an issue that encompasses an entire category of individuals living in largely difficult conditions – would be full renunciation of the feminist project and a failure to fight for humanist ideals.
In conclusion: raise a hue against education!
The arguments above are among the most common that are given in support of prostitution. They are understandable and acceptable for all, regardless of his or her education level. They make sense in the world that we have learned to perceive and are imbued with free market values and the values of an individualistic consumer society that exists in excess.
Each and every one of us considers him or herself to be free. Sociological discourses, aiming to deconstruct this notion, remain a minority and are badly perceived.
It is in this context that prostitution is immediately thought of as a subject about which anyone can express an opinion. If we believe the argument that each of us is free to choose the life we desire, then prostitutes are to blame for their position in this world. If these women or men sell their body for money, it has to be the result of their free choice. This short-cut argument allows people to deny any responsibility in the situation, and place all blame on the shoulders of those who are unable to meaningfully change their livelihood. There is no need whatsoever to feel compassion for “those people,” accused of enjoying life in debauchery.
Even worse, it is frequently said that prostitution is the life route taken by the lazy. Renting out the body for a price is claimed to be easy, allowing them to never have to “truly” work, and gives them a source of quick, easy income. Given the evidence, those who maintain this position have never taken the time to study the question, as explored by John J. Potterat. Focusing on the living conditions of sex workers, this study was conducted over 32 years alongside 1,969 prostitutes. Among many conclusions, it was found that prostitutes have a risk of murder that is 18 times higher than the average population, with an average life expectancy of 34 years old.
It is, above all, information and education that will make it possible to hear different arguments and lines of reasoning centered on prostitution. Education will allow the public to see the brutal reality of prostitution that is opposite of the glamorous fantasy that often comes to mind. Instead of succumbing to the temptations of pro-prostitution movements and easy ideas, which speak only to keep their voice in public discourse, a critical and analytical perspective must be kept in tact. In this way, it is our obligation to fully challenge and critique our own assumptions about prostitution.
- Agacinski S., « Prostitution : oui, nous devons sanctionner les consommateurs! », Le Nouvel Observateur, September 6th, 2012.
- Bourdieu P., La Distinction. Critique sociale du jugement, Les Editions de Minuit, 1979.
- Bousquet D. (President), Geoffroy G. (Rapporteur), Rapport d’information par la Commission des lois constitutionnelles, de la législation et de l’administration générale de la République, en conclusion des travaux d’une mission d’information sur la prostitution en France, French National Assembly, n.3334, April 13th, 2011.
- Chaleil M., Prostitution, Le désir mystifié, L’Aventurine Ed., Paris, 2002.
- Crahay M., « Chapitre 1 - Les présupposés psychologiques des précurseurs », in : Psychologie de l’éducation, PUF Ed., Paris, 1999.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Moglia M., « Prostitution : pénalisation des clients... et puis quoi encore? », Libération, July 16th, 2012.
- Mott R., « Prostitution – J’ai le cœur qui désespère », Sisyphe, September 12th, 2012.
- Potterat J. J., Brewer D.D., Muth S.Q., Rothenberg R.B., Woodhouse D.E., Muth J.B., Stites H.K., Brody S., « Mortality in a Long-term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women », American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 159, Issue 8, 2003.
A selection of evidences by prostitution victims noted down by non-profit volunteers.
Seemingly insignificant words are commonly employed to express what is unbearable. Very few prostitutes in touch with non-profit organizations, would plainly admit: “I am/ I was a prostitute”. They hide behind expressions as to keep aside the reality of their lives. Most often they’ll say “I’m working in the streets, I left the streets, I fear having to go back to the streets”. Considering that words can cure, words can also be harmful and not only the words of others. Intolerable situations need embellishment in order to be accepted. This way, stories are built up to hide one's truth: love stories, abduction stories, sex and power stories.
“Just a rough time!”
He was twenty then, from a middle-class family, graduated high school and got a job, but went through a number of family problems and break ups. Friends offered him stuff stronger than shit, “just try it and you’ll feel high”. It was good, he felt much better. Then he lost his job and it all became unbearable: he had to increase his dose, and was faced with the question of "how to pay for the stuff?” “Nothing to worry about”, a guy said to him: "just go and suck the bourgeois” in one of the side-alleys by Avenue Foch. “This is just a rough time,” he told himself, but it went from bad to worse. Although somewhat physically weak, he was mentally strong and he managed to get over it all, as family members and friends stayed by him. Thanks to their love and care, he successfully handled, the difficult way out of addiction, easy money and detoxification altogether. He started a new life but deep down he still carries the aftermath of what he went through.
“I can stop when I want to”
She is 16, living in Paris and attending high school. She could well be living in any other main town. She is “far smarter than the others: she’ll stop once she’s paid for her designer bag, luxury shoes and that dress she’s been dreaming about.” Everything is under control: she’ll stop when she decides to. That's also what everyone says when they start to smoke, drink or use drugs. Those who became addicted thought the same way, and it all soon became stronger than their will.
“Just to help pay my studies”
She couldn’t do it any longer: with precarious part-time jobs, classes, revisions, studying at home, and her parents living too far away to be able to help her. So, she accepted when, one day, a rather pleasant man, a little more insistent than the others, offered her money for a night with him. And, well “it was fun!”: feeling just like a film star. And, you know “it wasn’t serious, just for one time” to painlessly finish the month. She carried on: “that seemed easier than to run endlessly after one precarious job after the other”. She’ll put a stop to it all when she finishes her exam, “for sure!”. Well now, what will she choose to do with her diploma? Will she keep struggling to find a long- term, stable, well-paid job?
“It’s fun! Let’s enjoy it”
She is 14. The other girls are calling her “a whore”? They just envy her because “in her school she is the star”. She’s the strongest, the best and the sexiest. The proof ? Her boyfriend is making “a lot of a dough because as all of his guys want to sleep with her. It’s fun, isn’t it?" Why hasn’t she told her family? “They’re just losers and wouldn’t understand”.
“He’s in love with me”
She is living in Rio, coming from a favela, yet she’s quite happy to have a regular job. Thanks to her man, she has a steady income: he’s selecting clients for her. She’s working hard but luckily her clients aren’t too violent with her: her man keeps an eye on them and is protecting her. Of course, he throws tantrums sometimes, he hits her, but one has to understand that “he’s jalous”. He told her he loves her and it just upsets him to see all of these guys amusing themselves with her. He’d rather she did something else “but there’s no job! And one has to live after all.”And for the time being that’s all she could find, but when they have put enough money aside, things will surely improve.
“I got ‘em”
He lives in Sao Paulo and he is 13. He left his family who abused him, and for now he feels secure among his gang. He walks the streets for money. He is quite smart: he can “squeeze money- a few reales- out of these European or American tourists”, who come to taste Brazilian exoticism in all of its forms. And if everything goes well, within a few years he will “run his own gang, deal or even drive a girls’ net” work. In Brazil, there is an estimated half a million child prostitutes.
“I'm getting money for my Mum”
She'll never have a chance to get out of it all. She lives in Guatemala City. She is ten, and her mother is hardly twice her age; but- what with drugs and alcohol- she is so worn out that she looks far older. She is sick and since she cannot prostitute herself any longer, she stays at home, a slum, only furnished with a mattress, which no one would want for their dog. When other children go to school, she leaves to prostitute herself. "I'm getting money for my Mum", she told ESPPER5, an NGO, which helps destitute locals. She feels proud: she is a big girl now and she's been helping her family for quite a while. She's a nice little girl and a very gentle one too: all day long she'll obediently give in to all the demands of enthusiastic men eager for young flesh. With some luck, she won’t become a mother before she’s fifteen. And with even more luck she’ll avoid AIDS. And if she’s very lucky she may reach the age of 50, which might not be worth it considering the hardships of life. Her only hope? That one of the few NGOs, tolerated by the procurers’ networks will take care of her future children. And indeed, various NGOs, such as Les Trois Quarts du Monde (TQM), aim at saving young prostituted girls’ children and preparing a better future for them.
In order to try to identify the client's personality - to the extent that it would be possible to reduce their multiplicity into a single individual standard - the study of the text written by a customer, whose nickname is "Un mec !" seems to be necessary, as it combines in itself the essence of clichés relating to prostitution.
The customer remains the great unknown of the prostitution sphere. The client is nevertheless one of the pillars of the system that remains nine times out of ten ignored. As already noted by the Fondation Scelles in 2004, "Must we not see the expression of a ‘collective unconscious’ that refuses to carry an important part of the responsibilities of the ‘consumer’ at the profit of those who organize the market?" The customer has been taken into account in the French criminal law in 2002.
The figure of this fleeing character has been studied since the 1980s in Sweden, notably by Sven Axel Mansson. In France, it was not until the 2000s that the customer actually gained interest, including the works of Claudine Legardinier & Bouamama Saïd, Max Chaleil, or also the report of the French National Assembly No. 3334 on prostitution in France.
The ratio of available women
The customer, "Un mec !” explains his first experience with an escort girl, when he was 25 years old, living in London. Previously, he explained that he was raised by his mother, "an open-minded, feminist, who considered "whore" as the worst insult to a woman." He then stated that he was fully aware of the issues of prostitution, but still ignored what he calls his "principles" to request an escort girl.
“Un mec !” made his choice on the Internet, noting how this process is very similar to that of buying an everyday object, "like choosing a new TV on Amazon." He first notes the easiness of the process and the wide range available. For every woman, there is a description that he qualified as “technical”: photos, measurements, comments from previous guests, age, languages spoken, favorite drinks, sexual practices. First observation from this description: no descriptive categories shocked him, yet an obvious bias appeared upon reading: the only category that really concerned the individual prostitute herself, as an individual, lay in her taste in beverage. The rest was only the pragmatic description of the characteristics of the object that the client considered buying.
And more... Alcohol is synonymous with relaxing, with a festive atmosphere, allowing one to let go, is commonly used by a number of prostitutes in order to have enough courage to endure their activity. The champagne, which is ultimately chosen, is known as an elegant drink of sophistication and of seduction. It also has the reputation of being the alcohol with the most immediate effect. This choice is therefore perhaps not so innocent: it allows you to immediately register the client in a luxurious world of fantasy, and place the individual prostitute in a state of slight intoxication, in order to facilitate the exercise of this difficult activity.
He finally chose a Russian model (not fearing clichés) who prostitutes at night (on average $2,732 USD for the night) in her own apartment or in that of the client. Once the order was placed, the author translated, within his text, the tension that resides between the anxiety and the excitement of the client (a challenge to the education he received from his mother, having a feeling of doing something forbidden and reprehensible, to being the "bad boy" of rap videos) and the bad conscience that the act generates. And this is without a doubt the cocktail that excites him.
Infinite sexual uses of women
The woman who opened the door was described as the antithesis of the archetypal street prostitute: he described her as "graceful, charming, far from being vulgar, and smiling."
"Even though we both knew what I was doing there, the experience, as short as it was, was deeper than just the sex that would follow." In fact, it is precisely because they both knew why they were there that the experience was "deep." Because of his bad conscience, he feels compelled (once past the sexual act) to be interested in her, and not to reduce her to a mere sexual objects and, especially, by extension, to not be seen as a banal and sordid prostitute client.
The value is much greater than a single appointment especially for the women in front of him, to whom this is a “business”. She is full of good will, and obligated to seduce the client so that she will be noted well on forums, which will guarantee more clients, and eventually returning clients.
It is for these reasons that this experience seems to "Un mec !" to be much deeper than a simple meeting between two individuals, especially as he described it as "close to a one-night stand, less hope for love and more openness [he has nothing to prove, she is a prostitute, she is there to satisfy his every desire]."
"Un mec !" named the following paragraph: "The customer is king". Herein lies the major difference for him with his love of past experiences. The pleasure of the customer is first. He described it as a "significant attraction for male sexuality." It is the same for the first attraction: women always available as an object/place of performance of male fantasies. It comes down to the idea that cradles human civilization that women are primarily there to satisfy the desire of men, and are thought of as to be always available.
Like the feelings of this client, one can cite two other “consumers” in a documentary film by Hubert Dubois: "The prostitute is always available and then there is the choice!" said the taxi driver. "This is what I like at Bois de Boulogne, I can take my pick", agrees his companion. They admit coming here between six and ten hours per week, driving or not, to consider the dozens of prostitute(s), transvestites and transsexuals from around the world, before deciding. "The pleasure of voyeurism is huge" says the friend, who adds: "Once we made the circuit, one sleeps well".
The feeling of misguided injustice
According to "Un mec !", in a couple, one always sexually gives more than the other, thus justifying the existence of prostitution. What interpersonal relationship can be described as purely equitable in life? He puts this remark in connection with the prostitute that does everything for him, gives herself entirely in brief, incarnates “The Woman”. This is quite contradictory as their "relationship" is itself purely unequal.
In addition, "Un mec !" says the prostitute meets each of his requests with a smile, which he himself notes is "probably commercial, but nevertheless convincing." He wants to believe in the delight of his partner in order to remove his guilt.
He also notes that she is a sexual expert, unlike many other women of his past experiences. He compares her to "a craftsman who has perfected his mastery over time," associating prostitution with the nobility that other artisan jobs have, and with the nostalgia involving consuming unique and non-manufactured products, but full with knowledge acquired through the experience of the artist. Can one see here a certain nostalgia for the days of brothels, where women were thought of as "professionals" of the sexual act, refining their practice over time and customers?
"Un mec !" then launched into a diatribe against the lack of knowledge women have about male pleasure (which he attributes to male machismo and the weight of religious institutions), adding that ultimately, he himself, knows little about female pleasure. He even added that "many women grow up without the pleasure of masturbation, the idea that sex is dirty.”
This man, however, said he frequented many women - which he described as far from being "closed-minded Puritan" - projects his own illusions about the fairer sex. According to the study "Contexte de la sexualité en France (CSF)” conducted by INSERM and INED in 2006, "more than 90% of men say they have practiced masturbation, against only 60% of women." More than one in two women already seems a fairly large number of individuals, especially since one can assume that this figure is an underestimate, since many taboos are still very much alive regarding female sexuality. Presumably this gap is, in reality, much less.
Perhaps "Un mec !" does not know female sexuality well because it does not exist in the representations: sexuality as one knows it is always androcentric. In pornography, for example, the sexuality presented is that of men, by men and shown with reference to this phallocentric impregnation widely accepted in all sexual representations. Similarly, all sex shown or described follows a standard course. They inevitably end when the man ejaculates. Regardless of whether the woman took pleasure or not.
This overall lack of knowledge of female sexuality remains valid for men but also for women themselves, as well as in a number of specialists. In this respect, one can include the famous confession of the misunderstanding of Freud comparing the great unknown female sexuality to a "dark continent."
After the act, “Un mec !” fancied himself with the prostitute that he solicited, and understood that she came to see him to exercise this activity by economic restraint. He did not make any comments about this subject, as if the fact of prostituting oneself to live was an excuse per se, and not an exploitation. “Of Russian origin, she studied economics in college, and after a number of boring and underpaid jobs, she threw herself (at her own will, according to her) into prostitution.”
It is interesting that the famous daytime activity of modeling disappeared from the presentation that the young girl made of herself when he selected her on the internet, as she was presented as exercising this occupation during the day and only prostitutes at night.
When they come to address the issue of their other clients, it maintains the fantasy of cleverly chosen prostitution. "She finds most customers pleasant, seeking a more erotic encounter than sexual slavery. She herself finds a certain satisfaction in being able to offer another person a moment of relaxation and fun." Indeed, to say the opposite to one of her customers would not be very sellable. These statements involve maintaining the fantasy of the woman who prostitutes because she "loves it" and therefore clears the customer of any scruple damaging to the trade.
Finally, only at the end of the penultimate paragraph, "Un mec !” announces that it was impossible to know if her story is true and if she was really independent. “There is the traditional boundary between forced prostitution and “free” prostitution. Having sex with a prostitute from a network, this is wrong, this is exploitation, but with "free" prostitute is tolerable, because she does it voluntarily.” It is curious that for the vast majority of people, the fact that an individual is subjected to economic duress is not thought of as affecting the freedom of the individual. Regardless of this constraint, this distinction does not come into play again to stop the feeling of guilt, whereas physical constraint was considered without further ado.
This dichotomy refers to the amalgam frequently made between prostitution and other activities, with the common characteristic of being livelihoods. However, prostitution is not comparable to a business, as alienating as it is, for the simple reason that no other job uses the physical intimacy of the individual, which is the private sphere6.
Intellectual shortcuts propagating and protecting misconceptions
“Un mec !” then announced that he hoped for a legal framework for prostitutes that would allow them to escape networks: “In the end, I prefer the system in force in Germany or the Netherlands, leaving each one to make sense of things.” Despite his “feminist opinion,” he still demonstrated that he was not interested in the question of prostitution, in any case not otherwise than as a consumer. It is a misconception, unfortunately widespread, to believe that legalization and supervision of prostitution leads to improved quality of life for prostitutes. Quite the contrary. The different experiences of legalization have increased the number of prostitutes, but also networks of exploitation and violence. Thus, as Claudine Legardinier shows in her latest book: "...the development of a legal sector has had the initial effect of boosting the illegal sector. A Dutch report from REIC showed that in 2010 only 17% of 2,600 prostitution ads in newspapers and on the internet came from the legal sector. Clearly, 83% came from the illegal sector, where there is no exercised control. The bonus is clearly for criminals, and the penalty is for prostitutes. Not only did legalization lead to an explosion of prostitution and trafficking, but even the authorities admit that traffickers are able to invest in the legal sector. In 2010, the head of the German police reported the increase of trafficking for prostitution in the country - 11% in one year, 70% over 5 years - especially that of women of Eastern Europe East and Africa. In Switzerland, authorities are moved by the increasing presence of Hungarian prostitutes, young or very young, rising Roma and Romanian networks and the rise of Italian and Balkan networks. Everywhere the police and authorities denounce attractive markets for organized crime."
After this naïve and erroneous assertion, “Un mec !” revised his words: “On the other hand, I am not completely at ease with the idea that paying for a prostitute is a normal act.” His guilty conscience resurfaced. Nonetheless, this guilt did not last very long: in the very next sentence, he did not hesitate to continue describing his experience.
Another justification used by the client is to report the case of a friend, an escort boy, who told him that his customers (premium) not only wanted him as a sexual object, but "something special," as if that was enough to justify the existence of this activity. Since the words of his friend are absolutely not relativized, or established in context, the experience of a single individual (which we know nothing about) is not sufficient to justify the existence of all those who engage in this activity.
"In the end, I find it easy to look at prostitution from a pious camp, but it would be more appropriate to look beyond clichés and scandals that sustain the tabloids. Before anything else, I would like for one to place respect for the prostitute at the center of the debate, whether one defends or vilifies the escorts."
The article of this man was specifically chosen because it carries in itself a significant amount of clichés about prostitution. Indeed, like many, he claimed to speak on behalf of the welfare of prostitutes while having attended one, once. Experience (of which he considers himself lacking) has turned him around, and obviously he has never addressed the issue.
What is really easy, is to not be in the camp of the pious, but the ignorant.
The egocentric nature of the typical client
In this article, in addition to expressions that speak of himself, his feelings, his experience, and his ideas, "Un mec !" used almost 70 times 81 lines of personal pronouns returning directly to his own person, against 24 times that refer to the prostitute.
Here, the major lexical field is predominantly that of egocentrism; the whole experience actually rotating around him: "Once my choice was made, as a Siddharta curious to get to know, I made an appointment for the same evening, shared ethical malaise and an almost animal excitement to the idea of exploring a very controversial aspect of our society, but also of my own sexuality."
The prostitute is only a means of satisfying a need, a curiosity: she is not even mentioned, the focus is only placed on the situation and how it will evoke this man.
"What really differentiates our evening from all of my past experiences was the predominance of my desires". The customer himself is aware that time is dedicated to his person, his desire, his pleasure, as he literally said. The quotes he used to frame the word "relations" are clearly suggestive: he understood it was not a "sexual relationship." in the sense that the term "relationship" implies a reciprocal action, which did not take place during his experience with the escort girl, but a unilateral relationship, entirely directed towards him.
The title is also particularly eloquent: "I tested for you... sex with an escort girl," taking the usual formula of consumers sharing their experiences about any product: the "prostitution" consumer magazines release.
Like all customers, he allowed his sexual desire, attraction of immediate gratification, and this consumer-type relation to take over his bad conscience and the feeling that this act is not fair. Surveys7 show that moral indifference characterizes many clients. One interesting thing: they get what they want, and at the lowest prices. "When I eat steak, I do not wonder if the cow has suffered8," said one when asked about the risk of exploiting a trafficking victim client. The pleasure of the customer always takes precedence over everything else. Julia O'Connell Davidson shows that "this kind of moral indifference is very well accepted in society of these markets. Buyers are generally expected to act according to their own interests without being bound to those who make the products they buy or assume moral duty to them."
All customer experiences with a prostitute speak about the reality of it, the whole relation is about the client, and not a relation between others. A prostitute is the object through which the client is confronted with his own sexuality, his personality, himself, and assumes to fully be a man - as common representations depict males, it is to say, with irrepressible needs for which women are made to meet.
The conclusions of the customer are the following: to the question if he regreted having allowed himself to "use" another human being for his sake, he replied: "Yes and no." This experience was for him "fascinating and fun, and [he] remains convinced that prostitution can be practiced in mutual respect." He remains convinced, as he already was, which puts some doubt on its presentation as having been raised by a feminist, anti-prostitution mother and his description of himself and his "feminist side" obtained through his education.
In addition, he recognizes that prostitution may be exercised in mutual respect even though he is well aware that it automatically implies a unilateral relationship, as he himself noted previously. Where was the respect in his experience? He told himself that, on the one hand, the sexual "relationship" was actually completely turned to his own pleasure and absolutely not of the prostitute, on the other hand, she is pushed into prostitution by economic constraints, and finally he cannot be sure if she exercises this job "freely." Where lies the famous mutual respect which he is so sure exists?
The narcissistic fantasy world of a client
It is significant that "Un mec !" did not name the prostitute from whom he solicited services; the term, being exact, he prefered an orderly vocabulary. "Companion" is the word he used the most, but always with quotes, to understand that he was aware that it was not at any time a relationship of normal type, and that this woman had never been considered as a potential partner. He then used the term "woman," and frequently used "escort-girl/escort" to talk about it, but since he obviously did not want to be too redundant, he used it sometimes to talk abstractly about prostitutes.
The other dominant lexical field is that of fantasy, of erotic ideal, of the archetype of femininity embodied: "The meeting was simple and nice," "The woman who opened the door was graceful, charming, far from being vulgar, smiling, and I was immediately at ease," "respectful, sweet, and erotic at the same time," “sublime mastery of certain sexual acts."
"Un mec !” lives a waking dream, he is completely captivated by his "companion" that he compares, as one has seen, to a craftsman and he characterizes her as "beautiful, sweet, intelligent," to even consider having the "privilege to have encountered". The meeting took place in a unique setting, was accompanied by champagne, the atmosphere was conducive to all fantasies, the woman was available: "This woman is offered without limit and without discomfort to satisfy my desires", very sexually attractive but not vulgar: "Un mec !" actually experienced a true chic porn.
Suspicions of doubt, replaying a few times in the text, are completely cleared by this first sensation - very narcissistic - living a true fantasy, sanitized, controlled and gathering all the clichés of masculine and feminine, as of a pornographic film dedicated to him.
The cruel lack of empathy
The man who recounted his experience here comes from a privileged social background (he lived in London, for around 25 years, reported a refined language, and has the means to pay a prostitute whose rates are around 2,000 € ($2,743 USD) per night). A good representation of the contemporary capitalist mentality, buying a body for him is ultimately an action like any other, despite his single sentence stating that he minded it a bit.
This act is the very illustration of the theory of giving and anti-giving of anthropologist, Marcel Mauss. It shows the existence in an interpersonal relationship, in an exchange between individuals, this double obligation to give and get, up to what is received/given. These movements are at the same time voluntary and mandatory, because to disdain the other means to extract oneself from the system, and by extension, refuse the link to the other. Moreover, this amounts to admitting defeat and thus, to lose face.
Establishing the relationship between the client and the prostitute is such: as in the case of any goods, the customer interacts with the seller to acquire property. By paying, he has the illusion of being just about what he owes to the person with whom he has a commodity exchange, which is the only condition that can leave him with a clear conscience, and sometimes even with a feeling of having helped the prostitute.
For some years now, investigations on prostitution tend to be centered on the customer, trying to figure out who he is, trying to find a common denominator for all these consumers of prostitution who appear so different (socio-professional category, marital status, age, etc.).
The answer to this puzzling question, the mysterious point in common in all of these beings, seems to be emerging: they are men. What is less obvious, however, is the following clarification: it is because they are men (they are educated as such, they operate in a world of cultural representations in the strengthening of this typification genres9) that they feel entitled to consume other beings, especially women (also educated as such and also moving in this world of gendered representations, thus accepting consciously or not their fate as dominated and potential objects).
This is the theory of Bourdieu reduced to its simplest form. For a system of domination to work, two major conditions must be met: first, that the dominant accepts and asserts their dominant position as natural, of course. And secondly, what is probably the most overwhelming part of this sad fact, that the dominated themselves accept their fate and domination as natural. That is why the root is not in the socio-professional categories or in the different generations that drive men to use women and it is in the anthropological representations of what a man is and what a woman is.
Françoise Héritier shows, in two volumes Masculin/Féminin, that the observation of the difference between the sexes is the origin of all thought. Radka Radimska admirably sums up his point: "The reflections of men cannot be based on what was given to them to observe closer: the body is the medium in which it is immersed, yet the ultimate character and the most significant of human body, it is the difference between the sexes and the different gender roles in reproduction. All oppositions created by human reason are then listed in the grading grids into two poles: male and female, and one can find these two poles in all systems of representation that preclude concrete or abstract values (F. Heritier cites fundamental oppositions as hot/cold, wet/dry, high/low, inferior/superior, light/dark)."
Thus F. Héritier reveals the concept of the "gender differential valence" system showing that the value given to subjects and objects differs depending on the gender assigned to them, what is connoted as masculine traditionally emphasized to the detriment of what is connoted as feminine. For example, this explains that typically feminine activities, such as cooking or sewing, are represented at the highest level by men (starred chefs, famous fashion designers) because, since we are in the field of excellence, it is the side of the male. Vulgar daily kitchen work, this, belongs to women. Thus, at birth, humanity adopts an asymmetrical thinking of feminine and masculine.
Regarding prostitution, more specifically, Françoise Héritier clearly notes this turnaround to hide this unequal relationship in essence: "To say that women have the right to sell is to hide that men have the right to buy. "It is also to hide the very foundations of anthropological representations, men are subjects, while women are already objects, who are exchanged against other groups of women (to renew the genetic stock), or against objects (if the male/female ratio in the group is disproportionate)10.
Claudine Legardinier wrote "Far from being the product of "nature" that he claims to be, the Prostitutor [= customer] would be especially that of its culture". Thus, what the clients of prostitution have in common is being custodians of these ancient representations depreciating women. In modern times, these destructive representations are coupled with market ideology, which redoubles. This aggravates the already derogatory perceptions of women, but also of men, placing each in gender roles that ultimately do not benefit their well-being, which they could access in a more egalitarian situation11.
Fighting against this state of affairs is possible, as evidenced by changes in statutes and women's rights around the world. However, the road ahead is still very long. "When we have taught men and women to agree to respect and not to be ashamed of sex, you will not need prostitutes," says Gabrielle Partenza, president of the association, Avec Nos Aînées (ANA). The Palermo Protocol, whose findings have been repeatedly advocated since 2000, under the protection of the United Nations, have established research, and launched focused information campaigns, especially on the education of gender equality, to curb the demand for prostitution. In addition, the Protocol clearly establishes a link between customer demand, exploitation and trafficking.
The first customer that history remembers, Enkidu, one of the central characters of Gilgamesh (the oldest novel in history, dating from the Mesopotamian era, end of the third millennium BC), created by the gods and raised by animals, accesses humanity by having sex with a prostitute (which the author did not bother to mention by name or word). Today, it is important to educate (potential) clients, who will access this full status of humanity - in the sense of philanthropy - to realize that their actions are just a timeless repetition of terrible inequality, which is absolutely not natural.
- « J’ai testé pour vous... coucher avec une escort-girl », « Un mec ! », Madmoizelle, February 2012.
- Bajos N., Bozon M., Belzer N., Enquête sur la sexualité en France : Pratiques, genres et santé, French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), La Découverte Ed., 2006.
- Chaleil M., Prostitution, Le désir mystifié, L’Aventurine Ed., Paris, 2002.
- Dubois H., Brunet E., Les clients, Documentary, 52 minutes, 2006.
- Fondation Scelles, L’image de la prostitution dans les médias, CRIDES Thematic Overview, 2004.
- Héritier F., Masculin/Féminin, Odile Jacob Ed., Paris, 1996.
- Héritier F., Perrot M., Agacinski S., Bacharan N., La plus belle histoire des femmes, Seuil Ed., 2011.
- Legardinier C., « Prostitueurs, état des lieux », Prostitution et Société, n.163, October 2009.
- Legardinier C., Le plus vieux métier du monde, Les points sur les i Ed., Paris, 2012.
- Mansson S.A., L’homme dans le commerce du sexe, University of Lund, 1987.
- O’Connell Davidson J., « The Sex Tourist, the Expatriate, his ex-Wife and her ‘Other’: the Politics of Loss, Difference and Desire », Sexualities, Vol.4, n.1, 2001.
- Radimska R., « La différence des sexes en tant que fondement de la vision et de la division du monde », Sens public, October 6th, 2003.
- RIEC Noord Holland, Methodiek ‘Inzicht in prostitutiebranche’, October 19th, 2010.
Prostitution remains a subject that demands explanation; the scandals it provokes supply ripe stories to be published, and has been transformed into a business all of its own. By bringing together two worlds that otherwise had little chance of collision, prostitution provokes a chain reaction of scandal and public interest.
The previous few years have provided particularly rich stories: Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), Silvio Berlusconi, and Zahia12 affairs which took place one after the other and, once analyzed, appear extremely similar despite different actors and settings. Each of these widely published stories reflects the ambivalence born from prostitution. It is, at the same time, fascination and repulsion, producing unprecedented social shockwaves. DSK and Nafissatou Diallo are now known worldwide, with hundreds of reproductions centered on their “encounter”, objects made in their image, and direct parodies, all surfacing after the exposure of their sex scandal.
Public opinion is by and large offended. The average population continues to wonder how those in power can continue to act with the moral and ethical fragility largely associated to normal people. And, thanks to large-scale media hype, prostitution has developed acclaim or, in any case, become a social craze within the public eye, especially in the eyes of the young.
The activity attracts the eyes of many by the same fantasies that it provokes. It represents the breach of rules and becomes synonymous with the world of the powerful that is aligned with the idealized life of both danger and mystery. To put it simply, prostitution represents a life of adventure, in every sense of the word.
In addition prostitution represents simplification; it is the reduction of a complex world to a situation dominated by market transactions. In this way, the difficulty of ethical considerations, empathy, understanding, philanthropy, and human relations is erased entirely. Existing in an idealized world – lawless, liberated, governed by money, materialism and pure power – prostitution creates a tempting illusion.
To give an example, the Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, accused of having paid sexual relations with Chinese dignitaries – most notably Bo Xilai, dismissed from the communist party in 2012 after a murder involving him and his wife – earned tens of millions of dollars for her “work.” Due to her involvement in notably successful films (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2, Memoirs of a Geisha), her financial success leaves many wondering why she would practice prostitution. Did she want to earn more money? Did she want to maintain a strong network to ensure her career? Both answers appear possible, even probable. However, her decision may have also been influenced by the feeling experienced by those with power, that they can obtain and offer anything that they desire, including human beings. In certain power structures, it is hard, if not impossible, for women to say no.
Besides the issues of power, prostitution is also a response to individual suffering. Prostitution claims clearly, “yes, there are characteristics that construct women, and there are those that construct men. At the heart of these characteristics, divisions exist. On one side, we find pure women: On the other, whores. Men are nothing more than the victims of sexual desires, and they will never be mastered. To put these beasts to rest, to ensure that they do not spill over into violence toward those we respect, prostitutes serve their purpose. That is the way it has always been, and the way it always will be.”
In reality, this archetypal construction, a reduction of humans to sexual objects, is the only thing as old as humanity itself. The archetypes appear and reappear in diverse texts; it’s a temptation to simplify that continues today, and is supported by advertisements and media.
Nevertheless, following multiple sexual affairs that became the subject of media frenzy, which will be analyzed later on, these anthropological representations of the dichotomized human, far from being erased, have grown in scale. This phenomenon remains especially true in regard to the young, bombarded by raw and evocative images and situations.
Today, prostitution conceals itself under the umbrella term “escorting” which takes advantage of a term that is not yet fully understood to signify the activity it describes. Seductive, sparkling attire, fabulous parties, and famous, powerful figures now gild the dirty connotation of “prostitution.” In this way, it has become a comfortable idea for the younger generation, as a tame word in line with the physical criteria of beauty and elegance.
A necessity for elegant enjoyment exists now more than ever before. For here on, we have to enjoy ourselves longer and more fabulously than those who came before, to take full advantage of new means of communication, of consumption. The schemas that associate a woman’s body to objects of consumption, and trapping men in the idea that they are the natural consumers, have never been stronger.
What we are seeing is therefore an increased attraction to this type of prostitution. The market-society demonstrates the value of individuals as proportional to their monetary capital; escorting allows us to rapidly earn and gain access to the social status of an icon. For these reasons, a certain number of young girls find themselves dreaming of escorting as the royal road to fame and riches. A true tragedy, many of these girls consider the sale of their bodies to be the only way for them to obtain what they want, as in the case Zahia, or F. Ribéry’s “birthday present.”
The question of what causes this phenomenon is rarely put on the table. For what reasons do these men believe it appropriate to call for the services of these women? Why do those around them tolerate it? Why are these behaviors considered scandalous, only once they are brought to the public’s attention? And, finally, why does the public feel as though it has been betrayed after discovering a scandal?
Once caught, the public lashings that politicians inflict on themselves are often similar. They appear contrite, tears gleaming in their eyes, but proper. The excuses follow, and the words they use fall in line with pious sentiments. Bill Clinton, in his televised admittance of an affair on August 17th, 1998 claimed, “Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.” Tiger Woods, on February 19th, 2010 stated, “I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me.” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to give one final example, claimed on September 18th, 2011, “It was not just a weakness, it was a moral fault.”
The multiple affairs of DSK, or The Women of the 6th Floor (Philippe Le Guay, 2011)
It is impossible to mention the topic of celebrity affairs and glance over the one that blew up into worldwide media frenzy. Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) and Nafissatou Diallo are, from here on out, icons of sexual relationships based on power. The mere mention of either name suffices to bring back clear memories of the case and its facts.
In one meeting between these two, a plethora of power relationships can be described: Man and woman, black and white, rich and poor, powerful and marginalized, northern and southern, power and vulnerability, fame and anonymity. The possibilities of dichotomized relationships in this case are endless.
From the first day, the breaking news of the affair between DSK and Nafissatou Diallo heavily impacted France, the United States, and the global community. It was only a few hours afterward that Taiwanese television channels published a series of images to reconstruct what happened.
Throughout the day, opinions of experts, commentators, and close friends provided an endless stream of information for radios, newspapers, television programs, and websites. In France and around the world, conversation revolved heavily around what may have happened in Room 2806.
But what makes this story so unbelievable? Quite simply, people were incapable of understanding why it happened. “But why her?” “Why a maid, who isn’t beautiful or young, when he could buy almost any woman he wanted, given his money, power, and status? Why would he risk everything for her?”
In addition to these questions, it became clear that this scandal was only the beginning. DSK’s “affair” with Piroska Nagy, one of his co-workers at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), came to light a few days later. The woman in question soon left the IMF, with a bonus that her professional experience did not merit. DSK’s affair at the Carlton hotel in Lille took place during the same year. In this case, he was accused of gang rape and procuring. The accusation of gang rape was later dropped, however the second is still under legal consideration. After returning from New York, pronounced innocent of all charges, DSK was again confronted with another legal case. Tristan Banon, a French journalist, appeared ready to press charges against Strauss-Kahn for an alleged rape in 2002. The case was subsequently dropped, and did not result in criminal conviction.
More recently, another case has been brought to light, after the publication of “Belle et bête” by Marcela Iacub. The work, which describes the relationship between the author and Strauss-Kahn, resulted in legal proceedings. From this point forward, the publication company must insert a note in each copy to explain that the book is an infringement on DSK’s right to privacy. As a result, DSK received 50,000 € in legal remuneration.
As for the affair between DSK and Nafissatou Diallo, the civil case was decided out of court. The woman in question, who became the subject of endless analysis, received more than $1 million USD in damages.
The movie “Women of the 6th floor” uses Paris of the 1960s as its backdrop. In the heart of the city, a young man with a strict moral code discovers a group of beautiful young Spanish girls living on the top floor of his building. By meeting them, he becomes aware of a simpler universe that seduces him in the same way as one of the young Spanish girls. His decision, however, does not please the other characters of the play, who don’t support mixing social classes.
In this film, the world of the working class and that of the bourgeois collide. Their collision reveals the gaps that exist between their mentalities and ways of life. It is, nevertheless, the improbability of their relationship which adds flare to the storyline.
In the DSK affair, the story progresses in a similar fashion. The master falls from his pedestal to meet women living with modest means, and momentarily they share their daily lives, while experiencing new pleasures.
He already possesses women of high society, but they are not enough. He wants all of them, no matter who they are or what they do. One of the prostitutes, who is used to what the press curiously calls “the fine parts” of DSK, says herself that he prefers newcomers.
DSK’s line of defense in the majority of these cases is simple. The women always consent. Nafissatou Diallo, Tristan Banon, the diverse prostitutes, all of them. But the testimonies of each of these women, who dared to publically mention DSK’s brutality, are similar and almost interchangeable. Are they a line of defense proposed by lawyers or a true confession? A mix of both, it seems. Some have gone so far as to pardon DSK in the name of his “French” nature, which supposedly produces men with unnaturally high libido.
The unending Berlusconi case, or The Learned Ladies (Molière, 1672)
Silvio Berlusconi is used to being inside the courtroom. Since the 1990s, he has been through many trials, with a mix of politics, the mafia, arms, embezzlement, false testimony, abuse of power, corruption, tax fraud, prostitution, the list goes on. In short, he is the only man to have every necessary ingredient for a good movie on the Italian underworld, or on any underworld, for that matter.
As a preventative measure, while he was still in power and his cases began to pile up, he passed multiple laws allowing him to push back judgment day. One such law granted the Prime Minister of Italy immunity during his mandate. Another stipulated that all prison sentences of under two years given to those over the age of 75 would be carried out under house arrest.
S. Berlusconi is currently 77 years old, and was recently condemned to one year in prison. He has challenged the decision in Italy, allowing his sentence to be suspended until retrial.
If S. Berlusconi is famous for his extra-marital affairs and his “bunga-bunga” parties, he has also attracted Europe’s attention by his choices in policy staff. In 2007, he announced the creation of his party, the People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Libertà) meant to reassemble the Italian right wing.
Two years later, during European elections, he chose original electoral rolls consisting of young, attractive women with few ties and little knowledge of the political world. With television coverage and photos, he put forward those who were denounced in the press as his “bimbos.” After a bit of research, it was discovered that a few of the women had visited the Prime Minister’s villa in Milan, reputed to be a place for orgy parties always supplied with prostitutes.
The pressure generated by this scandal was important (Berlusconi’s wife went as far as to describe her husband’s choice as “the emperor’s entertainment”). S. Berlusconi eventually decided to keep only one of the women, a former television presenter, despite the fact that the young woman of 28 years had no knowledge of politics and considered herself unfit to enter into the political system.
But S. Berlusconi, nicknamed the Cavaliere had not said his last word. The following year, during Italy’s regional elections, he employed the same tactic. The strategy is clear, he does not conceal it: “A woman can be good in politics by simply being young and maybe also by being pretty” he claimed, during an interview (L’Express, February 24th, 2010).
One of these women, who was lucky enough to be elected, was formerly a dental assistant who had helped repair the Cavaliere’s teeth after he was attacked in Milan. Another was a television star and model, assumed to have participated in the special parties held by S. Berlusconi, and was proud to introduce herself as his favorite.
The most recent case is often referred to as Rubygate. S. Berlusconi allegedly purchased the services of (at least) one child prostitute, named Ruby. S. Berlusconi confirmed numerous times throughout the affair that he was unaware of the girl’s age, before going back on his own statements like the Cavaliere himself.
An investigation into the case is currently underway. S. Berlusconi, as well as certain close relations, is facing charges that include the abuse of power, exploitation of prostitutes, and sexual exploitation of minors.
Similar to certain characters in Molière’s plays, Silvio Berlusconi doesn’t seriously value intelligent women. His selection criterion is always the same: physical appearance. His apparently insatiable sexual appetite pushes him to reward his conquests by naming them to positions of power. The Cavaliere’s mistresses are dispersed everywhere, in both the public and private professional spheres.
The famous learned ladies, who give their title to Molière’s play, are not ridiculous because of their will to learn, but because they believe they are learning from individuals who are, in reality, pretentious and of little worth.
“If you ever feed your mind at all, everyone says it is with airy diet”13.
For the majority of those who accept positions of power for this type of remuneration, the situation unravels in a similar manner. Dazzled by S. Berlusconi’s charisma, or by the lure of easy power, these women willingly accept to see themselves brought into the political world as a pretty face, claimed as learned.
The amateurism of the affair involving Barack Obama’s bodyguards, or Female Agents (Jean-Paul Salomé, 2008)
The resume of facts is the same, despite the article or its publisher: a short time before the U.S. President arrived in Columbia to attend the US-Latin American summit, an affair took place which challenged the legitimacy of secret service agents who had come to prepare for the President’s arrival.
The bodyguards are reported to have drunk heavily, according to the hotel staff, before inviting a group of 10 or more prostitutes into their room. Their actions were revealed to the public at large the next morning, when the Columbian police were called to resolve a financial dispute between a prostitute and a bodyguard. The man wanted to give her $30 USD, though he had proposed to pay her $800 USD the previous night.
The local police, embarrassed to become involved in the situation, called the American Embassy. The agents in questions were sent back to the United States one day after the President’s arrival.
“Out of the 11 Secret Service members suspended and awaiting the result of an investigation of this case, ‘one member was authorized to retire, another is in the process of being fired… another left his position,’ affirmed the Secret Service.” From the same source, “the eight other employees remain suspended,’ while the internal investigation continues” (7 sur 7, April 19th, 2012).
The information and reactions communicated by the press in different articles are interchangeable: Barack Obama affirms that this incident does not reduce his interest for the US-Latin American summit, while he continues to put full faith into his Secret Service. In addition, despite the affair, it was continually affirmed that the President’s security was not jeopardized.
Other actors directly involved in the summit who talked about the event, were discontent to see attention focused on the scandal instead of on the political meeting.
“It’s incredible; four days after the US-Latin American Summit that brought together Barack Obama and 32 other heads of state, no one is talking about the meeting,” proclaimed Maria Teresa Aya, director of the Columbian Diplomatic Academy. “The international press is only interested in prostitution scandals.” A young government worker of the Ministry of Exterior Relations proclaimed angrily, “we slaved away for this damned summit and, in the end, it was only for a story about prostitutes” (Le Monde, April 20th, 2012).
Finally, as in many other occasions, what is disconcerting is that the agents acted in this way while working for the President preparing his arrival, not that they bought prostitutes in the first place. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, stated, “For Reuters, this incident brings to light the human weaknesses and working conditions of men in the shadows. Those who don’t travel with the President sometimes organize parties once Air Force One takes off toward other destinations. There exists a need to decompress that P. King does not deny, explaining that ‘what is most worrying in the case at hand, is that the party took place before his arrival’”.
The discredit thrown onto the United States is equally as worrying. For the nation that is believed to help bring light onto the world, such a scandal heavily tarnishes its reputation. Throughout all testimonies, honor was the golden string to tie all words together, as men began to express regret in the name of their country.
The ethical questions around prostitution itself, or the working conditions of the women who were bought, were never tackled. In the end of the affair, only one of them is known by the public eye. Calling the police to settle financial issues and giving an interview a bit later, she had this to say about the agent’s stupidity:
“They were a bunch of fools. They are responsible for Obama’s security and they still let this happen. I could have done a thousand other things. If I had wanted to, I could have gone through all his documents, his wallet, his suitcase” (The Telegraph, May 5th, 2012).
In the film Female Agents, Louise Desfontaines, an agent engaged in the French resistance, is given the mission to smuggle out a British agent captured by Germans.
In order to accomplish her mission, she brings together a dream team: she choses Gaëlle, a chemist; Suzy, a cabaret dancer; Jeanne, a prostitute. Out of these four women, only Louise is a professional agent. Beside the chemist, who is recruited for her talents in explosive material, the two other women are recruited for the talents in seducing men.
Today, this practice remains in place. In order to trap male agents, their weak points have to be exploited; send them women. For this reason, it is difficult to find a James Bond or any other secret again without the essential seductress, who plays a double role to charm the agent and extract information from him.
If the Columbian prostitutes had themselves been secret agents, like the characters of the film, it would have been easy for them to access information transported by the agents and to put Barack Obama’s life in danger. Given all of the international repercussions that could have resulted, this hypothetical situation is the most worrying element of the affair.
The Enigmatic Zahia affair, or Born Yesterday (Georges Cukor, 1950)
The affair in question is certainly one of the largest media successes in the last few months. Its success may be explained by the fact that, unlike the three other affairs listed above, it is the only story with the prostitute as main character, leaving her clients to the sidelines. Throughout the press, she is the only person mentioned; Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema, the main French football players involved, are mostly brought up in relation to judicial decisions.
Football and prostitution maintain a long relationship; the scandals that tie these two spheres together are numerous and similar. During large sport events, they highlight the emotions of fans, and are later left in a forgotten limo until a new affair explodes into the public eye. January 2011 saw the scandal involving players from the Swedish team, July of the same year brought scandal onto the Mexican team, and every World Cup brings a large influx of prostitutes into whatever country happens to host. The 2006 World Cup in Germany witnessed the construction of numerous super structures dedicated to prostitution, before the arrival of a massive number of testosterone boosted fans. For example, a new “megabrothel” of 32,291 sq ft was built in order to welcome 650 clients right next to the principal stadium in Berlin. Smaller, bathroom sized constructions were also built on site, to be used by clients and prostitutes alike. Despite the large number of prostitutes who worked throughout the event, the women who sell their bodies remain largely unnamed and unmentioned.
The juvenile Zahia, conquered the public because she evoked an emotional reaction, because she was a minor who resembled a naive doll while she was a prostitute, and because she developed a certain mystery around herself, by her frequent silence often incorrectly attributed to her soft character. She embodies a story close to a modern fairy tale; hers is simultaneously cruel and enchanted, as traditional stories often were.
Zahia refuses to be assimilated as a prostitute, and differentiates the activity from that of escorting.
“You know, it is always men who give me propositions. It’s for this reason that I refuse to be called a prostitute. I am not on the edge of a sidewalk, or sitting on a barstool. I go out into connected areas; I meet people in show business, in sports… But they propose… and I decide” (Paris Match, May 3rd, 2010).
And yet, in the net section of the article, she admits (like many women in her situation) that she sold her body to obtain a sufficient amount of money to open her own beauty parlor. The activity therefore is not one that she practices in total liberty for her own pleasure. Prostitution is considered to be a temporary activity, justified by a future project that requires funding.
For this reason, far from being the naïve, limited white girl targeted by a media who wanted to paint an unflattering, lachrymose picture of her (which was always centered on her physical appearance), Zahia seems to have mastered the subtle manipulation of her media coverage. Today, no one speaks of her as the French team’s favorite prostitute, but as a popular fashion creator protected by reputed figures (Karl Lagerfeld, notably).
When typing her name into international search engines, many pages have to be flipped through in order to find an article that deals with the first reason behind the young girl’s popularity. This phenomenon eclipses the means that she employed to arrive at her stardom, giving a large number of young girls the idea that they can achieve their dreams by following in the footsteps of a former sex worker.
These young girls are generally not aware of the implications on gender relations, and believe that using their body as an object is the best way to succeed in life. This conformity to a norm that treats women as merchandise allows them few means of affirming themselves as an individual.
This type of behavior and attitude, expected according to an individual’s sex, was theorized by Christophe Dejours, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, in 1988 under the name of Mulierity. As Pascale Molinier notes, Mulierity is “a defensive identity of sex that consists of ‘making the woman’ to avoid manly victimization. The female collective that, in order to forget its oppression and to not suffer, restrains women to give up all aspirations contrary to social femininity, relieving the collective masculine identity.” She also notes that Mulierity degrades self-esteem and selfhood (the varying identifying part of each individual that makes him or her unique). By trying too hard to incarnate the culturally constructed feminine archetype, we finish by forgetting who we truly are and remain lost.
The young women who are fascinated by the Zahia model, or by bimbos on reality television, have no idea how hard prostitution can be, and are unaware of the physical or psychological damage that can result. These women belong to the hyper sexualized period of our society that Jocelyne Robert, a sexologist and author, defines as such:
“XXX scenes and pornography are disappearing in public space. It is increasingly rare to speak of eroticism, relations, signification, desire, pleasure, expectation, consent, education, or sexuality… It’s rigid sex, parochial, focused on genitals, consumerist, mechanic, and rushed. It has squeezed its partner, sexuality, that in its own corner continues to embrace emotional, sensual, relational, emotional and identifiable panoramas…” (Les Nouvelles News, January 26th, 2012)
For Zahia, the story does not end badly in principle, but how many other broken lives have been left in wake of the story? Despite a period of her life that was determined by prostitution, it seems that she has succeeded in creating a free future for herself.
As in the film Born Yesterday, Billie Dawn, a former cabaret dancer, is estimated to be an imbecile before reality tears down these initial conceptions. Due to a team that never leaves her, and controls the smallest details of her life, Zahia knew how to use her image as an airhead in order to manage her fame and her business with an iron first hidden under a pink velvet glove.
The mix of power and prostitution: A Matter of Taste (Bernard Rapp, 2000)
Those accused of being at fault attempt to restore their image by adopting the figure of the repentant sinner. It’s next to their spouse, their family, and their country that they break down into excuses. At the heart of these famous affairs, the most important aspect of the game is honor. Collective honor is the only victim of the four cases studied under this theme, as in all others. As for the prostitutes, they are not often taken into account by article or by the excuses offered (except for Zahia, who fascinated the public eye). These women remain the object at the beginning of the entire affair.
The term “affair,” systematically employed for this type of event, is a soft euphemism that covers a cold reality. “The initial refusal to name facts is discerned throughout the entire scandal,” as Karine Hamedi notes. “The term ‘affair’ seems to create its own reality in and of itself, by designating scandalous facts that are completely separate from political debate”. She remarks as well that all “affairs” mix a conflict of values with a power conflict.
In this way, when an emotional element is added to the story, using this term becomes appropriate in certain well-defined frameworks. At its origin, “affair” is used to name sentimental relations and is always assigned to describe extra-marital relations in Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. In tandem with the spouse or the humiliated victim, the public feels cheated by the actions of the person they had admired or respected beforehand. The public feels vindicated by excuses made in their name and in the name of the victim.
In these four affairs, public opinion, media, and the protagonist concentrate heavily on the context and repercussion of the events, not on prostitution itself. In the DSK “affairs” such as those centered on S. Berlusconi or the U.S. Secret Service, only socio-political impacts are analyzed publically. In the Zahia “affair” the equivalent impact is felt in the realm of international sport.
The trials of S. Berlusconi and D. Strauss-Kahn remain in motion. Those of F. Ribéry and K. Benzema began in June 2013. But to this date, none of the stories can clarify the causes and real conditions of prostitution. Far to the contrary, they have glorified the activity, hiding it under a dazzling and trendy garb. In the eyes of the young, the activity appears and heavily influences their sexual-psychological development.
Public opinion largely tolerates the meetings between powerful figures and their mistresses and prostitutes. Even when hidden, the public is likely to forgive reprehensible practices, knowing that they exist and considering them to be a natural result of power. It is precisely this welding of power and sex that is important to question. It confirms a symbolic order in which, once you become rich, it becomes normal to collect women like cars or works of art. Under the same heading as a luxury good, women become part of the “package” of power.
As long as the media covers only the glamorous aspects of these “affairs,” they will continue to glance over the essential elements. Their refusal to dig further into the problem helps perpetuate old, degrading schemas for women and human beings. For this reason, it is unfortunately probable that both tabloids and prostitution have productive and lucrative days ahead.
- « Colombian prostitute thought Obama bodyguards were 'fools' », The Telegraph, May 5th, 2012.
- « L’hypersexualisation des jeunes, c’est celle de notre culture », Les Nouvelles News, January 26th, 2012.
- « Scandale de prostitution dans l’entourage d’Obama », 7 sur 7, April 19th, 2012.
- « Un scandale de prostitution éclabousse le Secret Service américain », Le Monde, April 16th, 2012.
- Benhaiem A., « Deux bimbos sur la liste du parti de Berlusconi », L’Express, February 24th, 2010.
- Bloudy M., « Exclusif Zahia. L’interview intégrale », Paris Match, May 3rd, 2010.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Delcas M., « La "mauvaise conduite" des policiers d'élite de Barack Obama en Colombie fait scandale », Le Monde, April 20th, 2012.
- Fondation Scelles, Charpenel Y. (sous la direction), Exploitation sexuelle - Prostitution et crime organisé, Economica Ed., Paris, 2012.
- Hamedi K., Scandale et suicide politiques : Destins croisés de Pierre Bérégovoy et Robert Boulin, L’Harmattan Ed., Paris, 2008.
- Molinier P., « Féminité sociale et construction de l’identité sexuelle : perspectives théoriques et cliniques en psychodynamique du travail », L'orientation scolaire et professionnelle, December 1st, 2005.
In 2002, Marie-Joseph Bertini noted that women only represent 18% of people cited in the media. After a long study of semantics and statistics of three large, typical nations, she arrived at the conclusion that the main function of the media is to establish a pre-existing symbolic order, with everyone in their respective places. In order to do this, the media does not describe the world, but they prescribe it; they give the people what they think should be the “real” truth: women are subject to their place, where they are dominated.
This remark seems to also apply to the journalistic treatment of prostitution. Indeed, the media continue to portray this theme with a lot of recurring archetypal descriptions, demonstrating a concern for sensationalism rather than a real examination. This is particularly visible in the way in which prostitution activity, the figure of the client, and the procurer are all presented.
Prostitution in France as seen from the written press
In the analysis of press articles treating prostitution in France14, the study of individuals working on this topic is particularly instructive. It shows that these individuals can be separated into two distinct groups. On the one hand, those who oppose abolitionism and the criminalization of the client, on the other hand, those who support both.
The first group criticizes the abolition of exploitation of prostitutes and the penalization of clients. Of the 42 activists of this first group, only 13 have direct contact with a prostitute (31%). In all of the studied articles, the prostitutes (with the exclusion of those who claim directly to the Union of Sex Workers –STRASS) count themselves among those who have the least access to speak and/or who wish to communicate less.
Contrarily, the second group mainly wishes to abolish prostitution and penalize the clients. Of the 35 participating, 28 have a direct link with prostitution (80%). Three-quarters of them exercise, campaign, or work directly in structures related to gender and/or prostitution.
Beyond this first analysis regarding differing opinions, the second theme most frequently treated by the press is that of individuals whose homes adjoin places of prostitution.
The focus is now largely located on their complaints: the complaints which one hears most often involve the aspects of prostitution that affect their own lives, as also illustrated in the choice of name for a group of individuals, "no prostitution-in-front-of-our-homes."
Very few residents worry about the living conditions of prostitutes. While they are direct witnesses to the conditions of violence in which they operate, it is the nuisance that these activities involve that bother them most. For example, they are not concerned with the health of prostitutes who are infected with diseases, but rather the fear of themselves contracting the diseases (except grassroots organizations directly involved in the health of these women).
The image of the client in the written press
To this topic, throughout the course of 2012, the stakeholders multiplied and varied, but the articles on the client are less numerous (51) than those discussing prostitutes (384). The debate mostly focuses around the question of the penalization of the client, essentially consisting of arguments in favor or in disfavor of this action. On one side, one third of articles oppose penalization (17 out of 51 articles). On the other side, those who are in favor of the penalization of clients (11 out of 51) account for 21% in total. Another component is the neutral articles (24), who simply state the facts linked to the question of punishments of client, or treat another connected subjects (46% of total articles).
It is interesting to note that of the 51 articles concerning prostitution, only three are written by clients or ex-clients and, always anonymously.
MAIN ARGUMENT AGAINST THE PENALIZATION OF CLIENTS (6)
First argument : appearing 25 times
Second argument : appearing 18 times
Third argument : appearing 13 times
Fourth argument : appearing 13 times
Fifth argument : appearing 5 times
Sixth argument : appearing 4 times
1 : The penalization of the client would degrade the working conditions of this activity
2 : It is intolerable that others decide, instead of prostitutes (note that many of those who speak in this sense have never used prostitutes either)
3 : It is necessary to differentiate free prostitution and forced prostitution
4 : Wanting to abolish prostitution is a moral concern, therefore it has no place in this debate
5 : Criticism of the Swedish model, presented as biased, dangerous, hypocritical, and difficult to assess
6 : Positive argument (contrary to all other critics) that promotes the merits of formalizing prostitution
MAIN ARGUMENTS FOR THE PENALIZATION OF CLIENTS (7)
First argument : appearing 19 times
Second argument : appearing 15 times
Third argument : appearing 14 times
Fourth argument : appearing 11 times
Fifth argument : appearing 10 times
Sixth argument : appearing 10 times
Seventh argument : appearing 3 times
1 :Prostituion is thought of as a place of profound inequality between men and women, a relationship of domination, a violence of gender (mental and physical) causing severe effects
2 : Refusing the sale of the human body, sexual exploitation, and the normalization of the sale of humans for the defense of human dignity
3 : Prostitutes are thought of as individuals in vulnerable situations, already under stress (economic, emotional, family, etc.), and in clandestine situations, which makes the argument of free choice irrelevant
4 : Necessity of prevention on the subject of prostitution so that prostitutes can escape the system and create a new life
5 : The myth of the “good” client is deconstructed: this person does not exist in reality
6 : Comparisons of situations of different countries in which prostitution was legalize or abolished, such as Netherlands/Germany on one side and Sweden on the other
7 : The deconstruction of the widespread idea that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world and therefore it is impossible to stop
Opposing themes of the two groups
the penalization of the client
the penalization of the client
Legalization of prostitution
The legalization of prostitution would provide prostitutes with better living conditions. This is said without relying on any specific study. The first three speakers simply imagine that the formalization allows those who engage in this activity and who reject the networks to live better. The fourth person, an activist of STRASS, for her part announced that “the associations have been saying that the more repressed prostitution is, the more working conditions are deteriorating”. Yet there is no mention of the names of the associations in question, or their sources. Thus, the assertion that the formalization of prostitution would be beneficial and prostitutes would deviate from organized crime, remains totally unsupported here.
Two supporters of the criminalization of four clients are based on real-life examples to support the assertion that legalizing prostitution would actually be an invitation for criminal networks. The first speaker takes the example of Eros Center, where “the majority of prostitutes who exercise is not voluntary”, without citing sources. However, the individual interviewed on this issue is the author of a book on prostitution. The second speaker takes the example of the Netherlands and Germany to show that “regulation is the most effective way to increase the market of ‘sex worker’, to open the ‘Eros Centers’ where one practices rapid prostitution, and to protect the interests of procurers, so that they become mere managers, hoteliers, businessmen like the others”. Indeed, these countries do not punish individuals collecting “rent” from prostitutes who pay to exercise within these institutions.
The theme of articles opposing the criminalization of the client – as well as for the issue of legalization – simply stated this opinion without any further argument. The mere fact that some prostitutes engage in this activity voluntarily is enough.
To say that everyone is free to make his own life choices without taking into account their context means that everyone is completely free at any point in his life, and no determinism weights on him.
The profile of procurers in the written press
In the articles discussing prostitution, the figure of the procurer is central (312 articles out of 747, 42%), in contrast to that of the client. The subject of the procurer is treated very carefully. The majority of articles are only concerned with judicial facts. In general, the 314 articles address two main topics:
- Acts of justice against highly organized procurers, acting mostly through networks (142 articles, 46%);
- The “Carlton de Lille” affair and the connected elements (111 articles, 36%).
The remaining 18% deal in decreasing order with "Julotcasse-croûte," "massage" parlors, the figures available on the subject, various facts, stories of people, such as (former) prostitutes, and the actions of one of the sons of Muammar Gaddafi on the Côte d'Azur.
Of the 312 articles dedicated to procuring in the French press, 303 are written in journals, 9 texts are written by people (not journalists) who are truly engaged.
No journalist article truly attempts to describe the character of a procurer, probably because there is no doubt about it. As the customer remains a mystery, it is assumed that the procurer is either a brutal, misogynist, "bad guy" often from Eastern Europe, or a determined man in a precarious situation, living on the earnings of his wife. In the first case, journalists do not research the personality and history of the individual. In the second case, the procurer - sometimes called "Julotcasse-croûte" - is frequently presented as a confused man, experiencing social and emotional difficulties. He is also often described as so in love with his wife he agrees to abide by the "choice" of the latter to exercise prostitution activity.
In general, individuals are rarely referred to as procurers, but rather they are “Julot” and their workers act in a “voluntary” manner. The tone of these articles is quasi-empathetic, as if the men were to be pitied more than the prostitutes who work for them. The articles are often written in a way to emphasize the distress of the “Julot,” or his indignation, completely erasing the victim –the prostitute. Within this phenomenon, one can see the resurgence of the well-established idea that all women must belong to a man, as shown in particular in the work of Francoise Heritier. The owner has by definition the right to freely dispose of his property. If his wife adopted a perceived attitude degrading to a woman, it is ultimately the man, who inflicts his opinion on his wife, that reflects the shame and therefore pity.
In the affair of Carlton de Lille, the argument for the defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) renews this idea that the true victim is the man, and not the woman, who is still suspected of being a temptress. Everything lies in this charade. During the "libertine" parties, it would have been impossible to determine that some women present were prostitutes. This idea is presented by one of the lawyers of DSK as follows: "Il [DSK] pouvait parfaitement l’ignorer car figurez-vous qu’à ces soirées, on n’est pas forcément habillé et je vous défie de distinguer une prostituée nue d’une femme du monde nue (He [DSK] could well ignore the prostitution because one imagines that on these evenings, one is not necessarily dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from a naked woman of the world) "(Le Nouvel Observateur, January 21st, 2012). This sentence, a rare symbolic violence, reflects the common thought that every woman is potentially a sinful dormant, ready to play as an object of desire, that is to say to fulfill the man’s destiny of women as objects. Simply, there is a type of women which one must pay for and the other ones are free, but must testify their ways.
In other words, one returns to the classic archetypal images of the woman and the Holy Whore, which are exclusive of each other and classify women between honest, respectable mothers versus sinful, attractive, bad women. Except that in modern times, it would be difficult to differentiate; these two categories are typically so distant from each other, but they are found mixed and indistinguishable because of the nudity in particular, as if only the clothes allow men to differentiate the types of women. This also implies that a naked woman is necessarily a "whore,” a body always available to men. By triggering the desire of men - still often presented as uncontrollable - she becomes the object of the desire, and of this gratification of consuming power. Therefore, she is powerful because she has a power that man cannot control, so men reduce her to the ontological figure of a “whore,” in order to render her less powerful and more controllable.
The very rare articles, from former prostitutes, that discuss procurers are very alarming. And yet, a certain reserve characteristics a large percentage of these few stories, as if not all could be said.
This, without a doubt, demonstrates the fear that procurers provoke. They are violent, cruel, and do not hesitate to threaten the families, adapting their methods to the beliefs of the family, such as witchcraft rituals performed on African women.
A former British prostitute explains that procurers mostly use the method of discrediting the word of survivors. This reduces individuals, and thus causes others to doubt the veracity of their stories of terrible experiences, which could affect the glamorous image of prostitution. Clichés representing procurers as individuals assuming their condition openly, the author explains that in reality, they have become much more subtle, and therefore more dangerous.
In conclusion, a failed mission…and lots more work
In his book on the French press, Pierre Albert highlights the existence of "French" critical journalism of expression and commentary. Yet when the French media covers prostitution, they are anything but critical. Rather, they merely report the facts matching many clichés - sometimes tearful, sometimes liberal-voyeuristic. They rarely question the root causes of prostitution, a subject remaining rather unknown to the public. The media reflects again and again the same archetypal representations of prostitution, maintaining the public’s idea that prostitutes are willing and free in their sexuality, instead of women exploited against their will. Whatever the theme of the article, the tone is often descriptive, giving great detail on the outfits and shapes (observed when subjects are female). Photos, always centered on the body of prostitutes illustrate this desire to expose prostitution, failing to hear or to really dig into the ins and outs.
The overall result is clearly catchy, perhaps because the mental representations of prostitution are, and thus the journalist gives his work not what he sees but what the reader wants to see him. Or maybe just because it sells.
In 2004, the Fondation Scelles noted on the subject of prostitution in the media that "l'approche est parfois sensationnaliste ou misérabiliste ; le goût pour l'histoire individuelle, le fait divers teinté de paternalisme, occulte toute analyse de fond sur les causes structurelles et l'ensemble des acteurs concernés (the approach is sometimes sordid or sensational; the taste for the individual history, the facts are tinted with paternalism, and hide the structural causes and all actors)", the conclusions are the same in 2012.
The history of prostitution shows precisely the vicious circle: the prostitutes are thought of as willing, a minority of them claim it (who wants to be a victim?); Sensationalist media reproduce the discourse that readers feed upon and everyone is convinced of the natural quality of this activity and therefore its necessity. Therefore, in Causette of February 2013, 75% of French people consider prostitution as inevitable. As a result of a lack of consensus, public powers are not able to set up a project company without prostitution. Media abandon their critical approach on the prostitution issue. Their eyes on this activity have essentially a self-indulgent, nostalgic view. Instead of asking the right questions, sorely missing from debates, they tend to perpetuate stereotypes that ultimately sustain prostitution, by harping that prostitution is "the oldest profession in the world." Clearly, there were healers, hunter-gatherers, or midwives before. In fact, this is the oldest lie in the world.
- « Les Français et la prostitution », Sondage IFOP pour Causette, February 2013.
- Albert P., La presse française, La Documentation française Ed., Paris, 2008.
- Baudrillard J., La société de consommation, Denoël Ed., 1970.
- Bertini M.-J., Femmes. Le pouvoir impossible, Pauvert/Fayard Ed., 2002.
- Bousquet D. (President), Geoffroy G. (Rapporteur), Rapport d’information par la Commission des lois constitutionnelles, de la législation et de l’administration générale de la République, en conclusion des travaux d’une mission d’information sur la prostitution en France, French National Assembly, n.3334, April 13th, 2011.
- Chaleil M., Prostitution, Le désir mystifié, L’Aventurine Ed., Paris, 2002.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, « Prostitution et presse : un mariage de convenance », CRIDES Thematic Overview, n°7, 2013.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Fondation Scelles, « L’image de la prostitution dans les médias », CRIDES Thematic Overview, January 2004.
- Legardinier Cl., Bouamama S., Les clients de la prostitution : l’enquête, La Renaissance Ed., Paris, 2006.
- Legardinier Cl., Le plus vieux métier du monde, « Les points sur les i » Ed., Paris, 2012.
- Rastello C., « Affaire du Carlton : les 5 questions que pose l’audition de DSK », Le Nouvel Observateur, January 21st, 2012.
The business market aspect of sexual exploitation is generally underestimated, especially considering that the globalization of the sex trade is still expanding. Clearly prostitution is a matter of money from the terms that describe it today, and clearly procuring, which refers to a brokerage or trading of humans, is a business. But the markets are not trivial and their commonness should not calm anyone. If the procurer (another Dutch word (mackerel) meaning "Broker") prefers to be called "manager" (as is always the case in the Netherlands), and the victim of the operation is called "sex worker", only the client is described as what he/she really is – the one who solicits an offer that through its payments supports traffickers.
Indeed this is a traffic, where the one who benefits is tightly linked to organized crime. The product being sold is a vulnerable human being and the buyer is a consumer, who believes in the illusion of an ordinary transaction with mutual benefits.
The year 2012 has been the time to put into perspective this reality, mainly thanks to the advancements in the fight against organized crime.
The UN confirmed these evaluations in 2011 while launching, in July of 2012, its first campaign “Criminalité transnationale organisée: Mettons fin à leurs activités (Transnational organized crime: Putting an end to its activities).”
The United Nations, on the occasion of their action "Blue Heart Campaign" against human trafficking, said that 25 million people are trafficked each year, with an estimated $32 billion USD profit.
The proposed measures to try to stop this growing phenomenon are the establishment of a hotline to report events related to human trafficking, the participation of all in raising awareness using such networks, and the adoption of social practices by citizens to refuse to buy goods or services directly or indirectly related to exploitation.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is particularly invested in this fight and published at the end of 2012 its Report on Human Trafficking, which demonstrated the universality of this evil and the scale of the challenges it imposes on those who fight.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), in its report from July 2012, evaluated the number of victims in the work force related to sexual exploitation at 20.9 million people, 5.5 million of which are children.
At the European Plan on March 12th, 2012, the European Union adopted a proposal for a directive to promote practices of freezing and confiscating criminal assets, while referencing several economic evaluations, including the Council of Europe, which amounted to $42.5 billion USD in profits per year of human trafficking.The European Union evaluates the money that they have confiscated. For example, in the United Kingdom, 154 million GBP (close to $242 million USD) were seized in 2009, compared to the total profit of the organized crimes which is estimated at 15 billion GBP (close to $23.7 billion USD).
The Directive does not fail to recognize that the total proceeds of organized crime worldwide in 2009 had reached 3.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (ie $2.1 billion USD)15. Human trafficking is now the third largest source of income for criminals, after arms and drugs.
In addition, the European Union published on June 19, 2012 its strategy for the eradication of trafficking that addresses the issue of criminal profits. It calls for financial investigations in cases of human trafficking to be actively conducted by a Europol analysis to help refine the data.
In France, the viewpoints of public and private institutions responsible for preventing abuses of criminal money, shed light on the realities of the market of human trafficking.
The Office Central de Répression de la Grande Délinquance Financière (OCRGDF) emphasizes the current increase in all traffic (narcotics, major fraud, VAT fraud) and confirms the assessments of UN on trafficking.
It should be noted that preventive actions carried out through a public plan by the Organisme de Traitement du renseignement et action contre les circuits financiers clandestins (TRACFIN) are dedicated to the fight against money laundering. At the private level, organizations such as the Mouvement des Entreprises de France (MEDEF) establish compliance standards for greater vigilance in daily trade, and companies such as The Body Shop, with its international campaign "Stop trafficking of children for sexual purposes," also combat trafficking.
In 2012, the Office Central pour la Répression de la Traite des Etres Humains (OCRTEH) dismantled 62 organized networks by moving more and more towards referral of Juridictions Inter-Régionales Spécialisées (JIRS).
A national plan against trafficking provides, in line with the European Directive of March 2011, an awareness of prosecutors and investigators to the need to concurrently investigate the facts of human trafficking, research the suspected assets, then confiscate them.
Different actors in the fight against human trafficking agree that patrimonial punishments have a stronger dissuasive effect in this area than prison sentences, which are more easily accepted as a risk of this business.
An operational example studied in 2012 at the REFRACT project, to strengthen the actions of judicial cooperation between France and Romania, is noteworthy. The first case was conducted jointly by France and Romania against a powerful network of rampant Romanian traffickers, especially in the Loiret. In 2010, the dismantling led to the confiscation and sale of property acquired by criminals in Romania for the benefit of both countries.
In 2011, a new case of this type was unveiled. The property of arrested traffickers was also seized. But this time, the auction of buildings that the traffickers used was unsuccessful, due to lack of buyers. The message was clear: it was not wise (or prudent) to purchase the assets of traffickers, for fear of reprisals.
The establishment in 2010 of the Agence de Gestion et de Recouvrement des Avoirs Saisis et Confisqués (AGRASC) opens up real prospects for efficiency by using the most appropriate technical tools to focus on profits, which are the main goals of traffickers. In the 2012 report, AGRASC reported over 20,000 cases handled, having resulted in the seizure of about $1 billion dollars’ worth of criminal assets, furniture, real estate and financials.
According to Jean-Marc Souvira, head of the central office for the suppression of major financial crimes, the total value of seizures related to human trafficking in 2012 is estimated at $3.5 million USD, which is only the beginning.
These economic approaches should not obscure the central point: this is a market in which the product that is being bought and sold is a human being. The decreasing age of victims proposed to a more and more diverse clientele demonstrates the adaptations to market demands and the growing threat to the most vulnerable: children, women delivered by their families, migrants in irregular situations etc.
Being a victim of sexual exploitation does not stop one from simultaneously or successively being the victim of other forms of exploitation such forced labor, forced begging or theft, or trafficking in organs. The latter case is, according to UNODC, affects 0.2% of detected cases of human trafficking in the world.
A final conclusion can be drawn concerning the 2012 UN report, which shows the existence of markets for deals powered by national, regional and trans-regional flows, largely blurring the classic image of separated countries of origin and of destination. This reflects the rapid adaptations of organized criminals in the game of supply and demand and further undermines the effectiveness of international law enforcement cooperation procedures.
At the top of the chain, tolerating or ignoring the economic dimension of trafficking has become even more unacceptable; the bonds of human trafficking with the phenomena of corruption are widespread (a calming reassurance for the extension of trafficking). At the bottom of the chain, the injection of criminal assets in the legal economies poses a threat to the very existence of our democracies.
- European Commission, Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime in the European Union, COM(2012)85 final, 2012/0036 (COD), Brussels, March 12th, 2012.
- European Commission, The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, COM(2012)286 final, Brussels, June 19th, 2012.
- Fondation Scelles, L’économie en danger : les circuits de l’argent sale, l’argent criminel de la traite, Conference proceedings, Paris, May 24th, 2013, www.fondationscelles.org
- International Labour Organization (ILO), ILO 2012 Global estimate of forced labour – Executive summary, June 2012.
- Souvira Jean-Marc, Commissaire Divisionnaire, Head of the Office central pour la répression de la grande délinquance financière (OCRGDF), in : Fondation Scelles, L’économie en danger : les circuits de l’argent sale, l’argent criminel de la traite, Conference proceedings, Paris, May 24th, 2013., www.fondationscelles.org
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Global report on trafficking in persons, December 2012.
- The Body Shop, Stop sex trafficking of children & young people : http://www.thebodyshop.fr/valeurs/trafficking.aspx
- UNODC, Blue Heart campaign : http://www.unodc.org/blueheart/
- UNODC, Transnational Organized Crime: Let’s put them out of business: http://www.unodc.org/toc/
The fight against human trafficking is very complex. One needs a global approach to effectively attack this problem, to take into account at the same time the need to protect victims of trafficking and to effectively prosecute traffickers.
Sexual exploitation and human trafficking
At the international and European level
According to the most recent statistics published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in June of 2012 concerning the period of 2002-2011, one can estimate that there are around 20.9 million victims of forced labor in the world, of which 5.5 million are children. Concerning the illegal profits obtained by traffickers, it is estimated that every year in the world, around 25 billion € ($33.8 billion USD) are earned, half of which is acquired in industrialized countries.
Preliminary data collected in the European Union (EU) in the study conducted by the ILO in June 2012 on forced labor in the world shows that three quarters of the victims identified in the Member States of the EU are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation (76% in 2010). Women and girls were the main victims between 2008 and 2010; victims were women in 67% of cases.
In the Southeast of Europe
In 2011, in Southeastern Europe, the number of persons prosecuted increased by 29% compared to 2010, despite the difficulties faced by countries in the region to effectively prosecute traffickers. The regional dimension of the phenomenon is remarkable, considering the fact that most streams are intra-regional. Internal trafficking in countries is increasing, with an overall growth of 17% in 2011, though it is still two times lower than transnational trafficking. Sexual exploitation is the main form of exploitation in the region.
Thus, sexual exploitation is now the most common form of exploitation in the countries of southeastern Europe, with over 50% of the victims identified in the region. The top ten countries of destination for trafficking from southeastern Europe are Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Czech Republic, France, Cyprus, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Austria.
Among the most important countries of origin, one can find the Republic of Moldova, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine.
The main forms of prostitution reported in the area are street prostitution, brothels, cabarets, clubs, and luxury prostitution (escorts girls etc.).
It is also noted that the massages concealing prostitution activities are also increasing.
One of the most recent trends in sexual exploitation is that the total number of victims has decreased in the Southeastern Europe in 2011. According to official statistics, the decline is particularly important in the Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine, Albania and Romania.
New phenomena also appeared in the region in recent years, such as internal trafficking of minors, particularly girls, due to the increasing use of social networks by adolescents. The increase in the number of child victims of trafficking, including Serbian in the Western Balkans, is of particular interest to the authorities in the region trying to implement appropriate policies, with particular emphasis on the prevention of trafficking.
Recruitment methods and profiles of victims
In Albania, but also in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the main mode of recruitment is the false promise of marriage. Traffickers, in Bosnia – Herzegovina for example, often use a variety of means to coerce their victims to obey, such as making them be addicted to drugs and alcohol.
In Greece, young victims of sexual exploitation, the women, are often recruited by ads, travel agencies, or employment agencies.
In Slovenia, traffickers hide their victims in apartments, and then employ them in their nightclubs and cabarets to legalize their stay in the country very quickly.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova, for example, many victims are minors from families with only one parent, usually the mother, or families in economic distress, social, and particularly vulnerable; but there are also unaccompanied and neglected minors or handicapped adults.
Mode of transport of the victims
Most victims legally enter the territory where they are exploited, with genuine identification documents. It is only once they have reached their destination that they are notified of the amount of their debt to the traffickers, pushing victims into prostitution in order to reimburse their traffickers.
In most cases, these young women are willing to prostitute themselves because they are completely destitute. In case of disobedience, traffickers do not always use physical force, but the threat of financial penalties, giving them barely enough to survive, or psychological pressure wears on them.
The victims are transported by buses, cars, vans, boats, or aircraft. Very often they cross the border on foot, to avoid border controls. Traffickers prefer to transport through the internal borders of the European Union. For example, victims of Moldova and Ukraine come into Bulgaria, joining in organized tourist groups.
The traffickers often use the most direct routes to transport the victims. They do not fear border controls, and the victims are cooperative, because they do not know what they are arriving into, because they are vulnerable, and because they are not truly conscious of their situation as victims.
The traffickers move victims from one territory to another, depending on the season and the types of demands in the country.
The effects of the crisis on the market of sexual exploitation in Southeastern Europe
The most profitable activity of organized crime – prostitution and human trafficking crime - developed due to the economic crisis in Southeastern Europe, Spain, and Greece in particular. The benefits of these crimes have reached the amount of 650 million € ($878 million USD) per year in the countries of the region in the years 2007 and 2008. In 2011, internal sexual exploitation in Bulgaria has fallen, although it should be noted that most of the revenues from domestic markets are still generated by foreign visitors.
During the period 2010-2011, there was a shift of market exploitation of the Balkan countries, especially Bulgaria. The market related to the sexual exploitation began to fragment. As a result, small groups of procurers appeared at the expense of major criminal networks.
The economic crisis has reduced the demand for paid sex and the income of organized crime fell. In 2009, revenues from domestic markets decreased by 50% to 70% compared to previous years. A smaller number of customers were found in the border regions of Greece.
To compensate for the loss of income, criminal groups have expanded trafficking networks in foreign countries and developed through the use of internet, allowing them to provide sexual services, and recruit and control prostitutes. Ensuring a greater anonymity, the internet poses severe risks for the future.
Facts and statistics on sexual exploitation in the region
Southeastern Europe is a region in transition where economic development and the welfare system are not homogeneous. These imbalances are a breeding ground for all forms of human trafficking. Illiteracy, domestic violence and discrimination are aggravating factors. Taking advantage of the vulnerability of populations who are in search of better living conditions and who desire to emigrate, traffickers have increasingly use "soft methods" such as emotional blackmail, and manipulation, making the work of the courts to obtain a conviction more difficult.
Geography of seasonal sexual exploitation
In the southeast of Europe, seasonal exploitation is mainly found in the countries closest to the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea. Nowadays, criminal networks have practically completed a "market study" to establish their criminal activities on the development of tourism in booming resorts. Their profits are maximized through the flow of tourists during holiday periods.
In Bulgaria, sexual exploitation, for example, is mainly concentrated in the large regional centers of Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, in winter sport resorts and in areas that are along the Greek coast.
The case of Ukraine
In Ukraine, there are about 2,000 prostitutes operating in the streets of Odessa during the low season. This number reached 6,000 during the summer. Criminal networks organizing mass arrivals of young women from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and forcing them into prostitution in hotels, nightclubs, and cabarets. Very often, during this period, the Ukrainian victims, usually operated in Odessa, are sent for 3 months in other parts of the world, such as the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Criminal networks then provide the victims with visas and organize the entire business process, from recruitment to travel through the housing and placement operations. Criminal organizations effectively operate seasonal interest centers for significant flows of foreign tourists during the summer and winter holidays. This allows the procurers to temporarily renew the "stock" of people locally prostituted and increase operating rates over very short periods.
The case of Romania and of Bulgaria
If one now examines Romania and Bulgaria, one will see that both countries have recently become destination countries for seasonal sexual exploitation. The coast of the Black Sea is actually a very attractive site and criminal networks have developed their activities in this area.
The Western Balkans
In the Balkans, the situation along the Adriatic coast is similar to that along the Black Sea. According to Bosnian NGOs, teenagers of Republika Srpska are regularly "leased" in the summer by their parents or legal guardian for a few hundred dollars to serve in the cabarets of coastal countries. It is important to note that the victims, according to their age, but also their specific characteristics (sex, origin, "skills") will be moved from one country to another, so that traffickers maximize their profits.
Obstacles in the fight against trafficking for sexual exploitation
Most of the time, the victims of sexual exploitation refuse to cooperate with the police, even when their procurer is arrested because they do not see themselves as victims of trafficking. This is a real problem for the police and the judiciary, which requires a greater number of preventive measures for potential victims of trafficking. In fact, victims are often reluctant to accept help from NGOs, and, because of the psychological trauma they have suffered, they are likely to return to prostitution, even after the arrest of their procurer.
The extent of corruption
Among the major obstacles in the fight against trafficking nowadays there is the corruption, the power of foreign mafias, the accommodating attitude of the authorities towards traffickers, and the migration policies implemented. Mafias have invested heavily in the coastal areas of the Western Balkan countries to build hotels and luxury resorts in which they can develop sexual exploitation networks. In addition, in many countries, the migration policies in place do not necessarily respect the rights of trafficking victims which, according to the Palermo Protocol16, should be protected, regardless of the status they have in the country in which they live. This is how many victims are illegally arrested and deported without any form of protection.
Criminalization, and the trivialization, of prostitution which isolates victims
Some countries criminalize prostitution and often view those who were sexually abused as offenders, who have committed offenses against morality. The victims of sexual exploitation do not then have the pleasure of enjoying all their rights. Instead, measures worsen their precarious situation by criminalizing.
In other countries, the laws in force accept and regulate street prostitution, which also represents a danger to the victims. Prostitution and its consequence, sexual exploitation, become commonplace. So much so that the fight against this phenomenon is not even a priority for the authorities, given the fact that the victims are "willing" to prostitute themselves and entering the criminal networks "voluntarily."
The use of the notion of voluntary victims
The concept of voluntary victim is often used in different countries. The argument put forward is that the victims freely join sexual exploitation networks, while the increasing use of soft methods, such as manipulation and intimidation, require a more complex understanding of the phenomenon of sexual exploitation. Many victims refuse to be treated as victims for a variety of reasons: fear of reprisals, psychological control of the trafficker, or insufficient knowledge of the phenomenon of trafficking. All these factors have obviously not changed their status as victims. In fact, the concept of abuse of vulnerability lies at the heart of the definition given by the Palermo Convention and its protocols; it is considered one of the main means used by traffickers to enslave their victims.
The fight against human trafficking for sexual purposes, which today is the main form of exploitation in Europe, should be different from those that apply to the prostitution policy. They should also involve the strengthening of multidisciplinary cooperation, both nationally and internationally.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- UNODC, United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto, Nations Unies, 2004.
Unfortunately, most of human trafficking and procuring affairs now take place over the internet. Cybercrime is one of the worst violations of human dignity, which explains the strengthening of the training of judges in this area. Recruitment agencies are multiplying online. It is important to note that procurers are often using social networks to more easily approach girls, while taking advantage of the innocuous first impression. In fact, sex offenders are at first "friends." This virtual prostitution is constantly developing with the explosion of web 2.0.
The concept of community sites, forums, and other social networks specifically allow free communication between people. This freedom lends itself to discrete offers of prostitution on sites, such as “classic” dating sites that do not monitor their services. The free interaction between users and the absence or lack of control of content facilitates this activity and the proliferation of networks. This new phenomenon of prostitution is growing, especially since it is not necessary for a procurer to have his own website. Indeed, a simple conversation in a chat room with a webcam can suffice. Thus some dating sites become virtual "sidewalks" that allow criminal networks to carry out their illicit activities within the technical boundaries.
Online prostitution is a booming business with hundreds of agencies registered in Europe and on websites. Tens of thousands of women are included in the directories –mobile phone numbers of prostitutes are displayed clearly on the internet. With one click, one can access platforms with real escort catalogs by country. Many of these sites are American. Comments often accompany the photos, stating that some "escorts" are independent. This phenomenon is international and, if one may identify some emblematic court cases for the period, it is clear that most of the time the sites continue their activities despite court rulings or they simply reappear under other names.
The preceding tendencies are confirmed in Rapport mondial sur l’exploitation sexuelle17, with a questioning of the activities of escorts as being as “independent” as they are often described.
The common thread in escort situations is the valuing of the supposed relationship between the client and the prostitute, which suggests at the same time the autonomy of the person one pays, conducive to fostering good customer consciousness, and the existence of a free contract between two individuals who trade a voluntary service. This unmarked picture on the internet suggests that prostitution is a pleasant occupation that allows you to make very satisfying encounters and experience moments of pleasure.
One can also highlight the ease of one-click access to the rates of sexual services, with variations on some sites. For example, the offering of an hour called "quick" for 250 € ($340 USD), the offering of "temptation" for 500 € ($675 USD), and the offering of "weekend" for 5,000 € ($6,752 USD).
In 2012, there were 15 judicial hearings of procuring and human trafficking online. Some sites remain fully active and simply reappear by changing names. At the judicial level, it may be noted that cases of cyber-trafficking and cyber-procuring are often with an international dimension, as installations of networks are increasing through the internet. Several digital businesses also have their origin in massage parlors.
Examples of cases of cyberprocuring and cybertrafficking
In June 2012, 12 women were arrested in Paris, 9 of which were in massage parlors. They were suspected of procuring in particular gang, of concealed work, of assistance to foreign illegal residences, and of illegal practice of medicine. Following the investigations beginning at the end of October 2011, the investigators of the Brigade de Répression du Proxénétisme (BRP) and the Groupe d'Intervention Régional de Paris (GIR 75) had discovered massage parlors situated in the middle of many boroughs in Paris that offered natural massages by young Asian women who, with appropriate financing, would provide sexual services costing between 80 to 220 € ($108-$298 USD). These massage parlors had the same managers and employees, the same web host, and the same advertisements on their sites. Investigations have revealed that the real network manager opened exhibitions by installing a straw man manager or his associates, who pretended to control the parlors. It provided the site advertising via internet and after two months of operation, resold shares to its employees, to open new facilities.
Several networks of procurers, who were exploiting Brazilians, were also dismantled. It was through an internet site known for little announcements where one could find a housekeeper, that these ads for services by young girls priced at 150 € ($202 USD) per hour were posted. The booking for the meeting was done over the phone, which was often based in another country. These advertisements with photos and measurements were entirely managed by procurers, who directed girls towards middle class or high-end hotels, where they met their clients that they acquired from the web. After many long hours of observation in hotel parking lots, the police determined that the main procurer was based in Spain and he controlled his business through the internet. Six females prostitutes worked for his company and he took most of their monthly pay, between 3,000 to 12,000 € ($4,052-$16,210 USD).
A significant increase in cases handled by the juridictions interrégionales spécialisées (JIRS)
These courts have tried, for the period of reference, fifteen international business networks, for making online catalogs of women delivered on the Web to international customers. Legal qualifications are generally those used by organized gangs procuring and human trafficking.
Compared to 2011, it gradually appears that investigations on financial flows related to these illegal activities are carried out and that the legal characteristics of laundering and illegal practice of bankers are determined. More deterrent confiscations of criminal assets must be a priority because cyber procurers are make large profits from this trafficking.
It is essential to strengthen the capacity of the police and national gendarmerie (branch of the French Special Forces in charge of public safety) to perform against the internet network, as more and more sites have elements to allow offenses characterized by procuring and human trafficking. These services are largely under-sized, despite the establishment for over ten years of the Office central de lute contre la criminalité liée aux technologies de l’information et de la communication (OCLCTIC), the Division nationale pour la répression des atteintes aux personnes et aux biens (DNRAPB), and within the national gendarmerie the Service technique de recherches judiciaires et de documentation (STRJD) who has had a cybercrime division since 2010.
Finally, it should be noted that JIRS have concurrent jurisdiction to the courts of common law. Sometimes non-specialized judges are in charge of such cases, which makes it complex or difficult to handle. The presentation of these court cases calls on a number of different services and should draw a number of conclusions for criminal policy to consider. For example, a systematic referral of JIRS of a complex international dimension requires contacts with Interpol, Europol, and Eurojust.
- Chawki M., La traite des êtres humains à l’ère numérique, de Saint Amans Ed., 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Neuer L., « Internet, nouvel eldorado de la prostitution », Le Point, December 19th, 2011.
- Quémener M., Charpenel Y., Cybercriminalité, droit pénal appliqué, Economica Ed., 2010.
Though child prostitution18 proves difficult to understand, due to the circulation of minors and the often underground character of this form of sexual exploitation, it is estimated that the number of child prostitutes in the world stands near three million. Even more alarming, 50% of those concerned are believed to have begun prostitution under the age of 18, and the average age of prostitutes is between 13 and 14 years old on the global scale (Le Monde, 27 janvier 2012).
Though France is well equipped with an arsenal to repress this phenomenon, which was recently denounced by the Association Contre la Prostitution des Enfants (ACPE) in an open letter addressed to Valerie Trierweiler, it cannot fully escape it (Le Nouvel Observateur, June 10th, 2012). According to the ACPE, there are 6,000 to 8,000 minors prostitutes on French territory. These children are both male and female, regular and occasional workers, and are present in the nation’s capital, which contains roughly 1,000. Despite difficulties in gaining reliable numbers on this illegal activity, it is estimated that 70 to 80% of these children are foreign-born, with many coming from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.
Facilitated by the vulnerability of minors, the rapid growth of the Internet and highly precarious socio-economic situations, child prostitution is not solely the product of criminal activities. Numerous children are in fact exploited by a close friend or family member. In December 2012, L’Est Républicain reported a case of a 17 year-old minor who was working in prostitution under the constraints of her oldest sister in Montbéliard. In addition to the victims of foreign trafficking networks, isolated minors are also the principal party exploited by child prostitution. In October 2012, 17 people were taken into questioning in Isere for facts related to the procuring of minors who had run away from home (Le Figaro, October 1st, 2012). Many young female victims are also victimized by men with whom they had fallen in love, as shown by the loverboys phenomenon. In September 2012, the correctional tribunal of Avignon condemned a 17 year-old boy to 30 months in prison for having seduced and convinced numerous young girls prostitutes (La Provence, September 20th, 2012). Even prostitution which is deemed “voluntary” and pre-prostitution behaviors are developing in a disturbing fashion and appear to affect all social backgrounds. Due to the particular forms of practice, the supply of sex services in exchange for non-monetary compensation (housing, consumer goods, nights out, or drugs) young persons working in these schemes are often unaware that they have stepped foot into the world of prostitution.
The diversity of international texts
Numerous international texts demonstrate the will of states to create a better system of taking responsibility for victims of child prostitution.
Within the United Nations, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) puts the obligation of protecting minors against all forms of sexual violence and exploitation onto the shoulders of individual countries. This convention nevertheless lacks the ability to have a direct effect, in so far as it gives great freedom to individual countries. Complementary to the UNCRC, the optional protocol of May 25th, 2000 on the sale of children, prostitution and child pornography, defines child prostitution clearly. It emphasizes the necessity of countries to protect the rights and interests of minor victims, by promoting the development of adapted legal procedures, allowing the severe punishment of adults involved in these acts of prostitution committed against those younger than 18. Highlighting the importance of increased awareness in the public and interstate cooperation, the protocol of May 25th 2000 had a direct effect on the internal legislation of signing countries. In France, the law of March 4th 2002 relative to parental authority took the recommendations of this text into account to suppress the involvement of young persons in prostitution.
Within the European Union, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of December 7th 2000 gives children a collection of rights including the right to protection and care. The decision relative to Combating the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography of December 22nd, 2003 obligated states to incriminate child pornography, whose definition is now spelled out clearly within the Union’s legal framework. In addition to the Recommendation on the Protection of Minors from December 20th, 2006 and the Directive of December 13th 2011 relating to combating sexual abuse, the sexual exploitation of children, and child pornography signifies the will of the European Union to increase their responsibility for minors who are victims of prostitution. Beyond its section dedicated to the reduction of child prostitution, the directive highlights the importance of prevention and insists on the necessity of providing aid adapted to minors, an aid which continues, “as long as the child is not reestablished.” Countries also remain free to take additional measure that they judge to be well adapted for the betterment of their responsibility toward child prostitutes.
Within the European Council, the Convention for Combatting Human Trafficking of May 16th, 2005 includes a certain number of dispositions directly related to taking responsibility for victims of sexual exploitation. It imposes on nations the obligation to take necessary measures for identification (article 10) and for assisting those who are victims of prostitution. This text also obligates the concerned parties to take the necessary measures to allow the assistance of victims in their physical, psychological and social reestablishment, while taking into account the specific security needs of those concerned. The convention also stated that the assistance given must take the individual needs of children into account, and cannot be given in exchange for a victim’s legal testimony (article 12). It is expected that the aid given to victims of human trafficking will include a reliable and appropriate form of housing. Though the convention is not specifically dedicated to combatting child prostitution, the Recommendation (2005) of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the rights of children living in residential institutions also put forward numerous measures which take effect once a child forced into prostitution is removed from his or her family’s custody by legal decision. The recommendation notes that each placement must guarantee the full respect of the child’s fundamental rights. According to the recommendation, placing a child outside of his or her home is justifiable only in cases where the current environment is a direct exposure to danger. More recently, the Convention of the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse reinforces the mechanisms used in combatting sex tourism. Finally, a program entitled Building a Child-Friendly Europe: Turing a vision into reality (2012-2015) was put into place in order to keep track of the efficacy of existing precedents concerning the rights of children.
An application judged satisfactory on an internal level
Despite numerous international texts, it is clear that the protection of child victims of sexual exploitation is often far from efficient on the national scale. The responsibility that the state owes to its children appears insufficient in numerous developing countries.
However, the recommendations enunciated on an international level are not without effect; numerous countries armed themselves with a set of laws meant to reduce the number of adults involved in acts of prostitution against children. In France, for instance, article 13-I of the law passed on March 4th, 2003 relating to parental authority states that, “child prostitution is prohibited within all territory of the Republic.” This statement, however, is not meant to punish child prostitutes for their acts, since they are considered to be the victims. The only group whose acts are targeted, therefore, is the client.
Though this arsenal to reduce child prostitution is self-evidently necessary, it remains insufficient to assure the effective protection of child victims of sexual exploitation. The application of appropriate help remains fundamental to allow children to definitively leave the “infernal circle” that is prostitution.
The difficult detection of cases involving child prostitution
Conditions prior to taking responsibility for the victims of child prostitution – their detection and their identification – remain hitherto insufficient. In a 2011 report on the sexual exploitation of children in France, the Special Rapporteur of the UN, Najat Maalla M'jid, highlighted that the extent of child prostitution within French territory was difficult to determine due to the official data on the subject. The clandestine nature of this phenomenon is often an obstacle to better understanding on the part of public powers. The facts at the heart of a decision rendered by the Appeals Court of Paris19 on March 13th 2012 signify these difficulties. In effect, the personnel of a hotel where young Romanian women were forced to become prostitutes never revealed this fact to authorities, though they admitted to having known about what was taking place. The general inability to spot alarm signals constitutes an additional barrier to the evaluation of this specific type of prostitution. In France, there exists neither formalized procedures nor established criteria for the identification of minors forced into prostitution.
French legislation is not, however, exempt from the rule of law concerning this material. Generally, the detection of cases of child prostitution involves police authorities as much as institutional or associative actors. The Penal Code states that mistreatment and sexual acts committed against a child younger than 15 years old must be denounced through the punishment of penal sanctions as an offence punishable by three years of imprisonment and a 45,000 € fine. According to certain associations, the processes of signaling cases of child prostitution authorizes all those who have knowledge of child prostitution to warn health professionals who can follow up with administrative or legal authorities. The process of filing a complaint regarding one or more of these legal infractions, meant to inform public prosecutors, should help the process of detection as well. The following parties are also capable of bringing to light acts of child prostitution: the victim, their parents or legal guardian, and any institution that aims to aid children in danger, which has functioned for five months or more (article 2-3 CPP). In practice, however, the victims remain hesitant to turn toward legal or administrative authorities, fearing their deportment or revenge on behalf of their traffickers. Given that NGOs encourage the steps taken by the victims, in practice they play a major role in contacting police and local authority services. The memorandum of February 5th, 2009 addressed by the Minister of Immigration to the prefects and general directors of police forces, calls upon these actors to allow the intervention of associations recognized for their assistance to victims. The defender of rights, in charge of assuring the respect of rights and liberties, is also called upon to play a theoretical role in the processes of taking responsibility for child prostitutes, insofar as it is his or her responsibility to hold the magistracy responsible, which appears to best justify the application of educative assistance measures.
French authorities keep track of the work that is done to help child victims of sexual exploitation. They indicate that putting Romanian police forces at the disposition of the Parisian police prefecture since 2011 has helped facilitate the identification of more than 200 young persons originating from Romania. Certain projects aiming to facilitate the detection of child prostitutes also merit citation. Such is the case of the memorandum “Human Trafficking: Bringing down those responsible and protecting victims” which was distributed to all sections of the French gendarmerie and which contains precise directives with respect to the identification and protection of victims. In the same framework, a guide elaborated by the ECPAT-France and the Brigade de Protection des Mineurs (Brigade of Minor Protection) was distributed in 2012 in order to facilitate the work of police detecting victims of human trafficking.
The absence of an institutional actor specialized in taking responsibility of child prostitution
Even though there does not exist a specific structure dedicated to child prostitution in the institutional framework of France, the need for one is not unknown by public authorities. Associations recognize France’s high level of involvement in the fight against sexual exploitation of those less than 18 years old.
The law of March 4th 2002 relative to parental authority states in article 13 II that, “All minors who take part in prostitution, including those who do so occasionally, are deemed to be in danger and must be granted the protection of juvenile judges under the educational assistance procedure.” Considered by French legislation as a victim that must be protected, the child prostitute benefits in full right from these protective measures. The diverse institutions of child protection, whether administrative or legal, have the duty to intervene in order to care for and aid minors in distress.
After the child, his or her parents, or public prosecutors signal abuse, the Juvenile Judge can take urgent measures in order to preserve the health, security, or the morale of the minor in danger. The child who is the victim of acts of prostitution will often be placed in a center specialized for the ordinances of article 375 of the civil code. In case of emergency, public prosecutors may also order the placement, as a provisionary placement which will then be confirmed or annulled by a juvenile judge within a maximum of three weeks.
Responsible for, “questions concerning the justice of minor and the communication between institutions intervening of behalf of justice,”20 the Direction de la Protection judiciaire de la Jeunesse (DPJJ - Direction of the Legal Protection of Youth) is also called forth to play a major role in taking responsibility for child prostitutes. In addition to its diverse actions of education and reintegration, it is the Direction’s responsibility to apply the decisions of legal tribunals for children regarding their placement in the 1,500 existing structures. The child victim can also be referred to social help services for children (ASE - Aide social à l’enfance). Aiming to propose a material, educational and psychological support system to minors confronted with social difficulties (L221-1 of the social and familial action code), the ASE can also reunite the child with a member of his or her family, or welcome the child into a specialized establishment.
This placement seems to be, in practice, the measure which is most often applied by juvenile judges in order to protect the victims of child prostitution. The appeals court of Rouen, on November 9th, 200921 confirmed the placement of two minors after the process of investigating and of educational orientation previously ordered concluded that “the actions of two children, in a precarious context, revealed how horrible their prostitution scenarios were.”
The role of welcoming centers for the protection of children, taking concrete responsibility for child prostitutes
In terms of assisting victims, authorities intervene frequently according to the bias of the NGO that supports them. Generally, these are organizations that offer assistance and legal counsel to victims. Taking concrete responsibility for victims is centered on three separate axes.
Access to care and psychological support comprises the first axis. In a report on the health concerns of prostitution presented in December of 2012 to the Minster of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Inspection Générale des Affaires Sociales (IGAS - General Inspection of Social Affairs) stated their concern for, “the situation of young minors becoming prostitutes.” Beyond the inherent risks of prostitution (HIV, hepatitis, violence), child victims are increasingly affected by “pathologies stemming from precariousness” (respiratory problems, addictions, or psychological disturbances). These problems develop as a result of isolation, precarious housing conditions, and the clandestine nature of their work. The inexperience and misunderstanding of the young eventually limits their possibilities of accessing means of prevention and care.
Frequently exposed to violence, victims often appear incredibly fragile on a psychological level. In this way, in a decision handed down on December 6th 2012 by the Appeals Court of Paris22 a young Romanian girl named Daniela X was called to testify against a man she had met in a nightclub in Romania. Taken into questioning by the police, the young girl was placed into state housing. Psychological reports put together on her behalf revealed egregious difficulties: “loss of appetite, headaches, stomach aches, difficulties sleeping, inability to form relationships with adults or peers.” In order to determine the influence the acts had on her health and personality, and in order to guarantee her placement in an adapted treatment center, article 706-48 of the procedural Penal Code states that the child prostitute may be subject to expert medical-psychological examination. Though it is optional, these examinations on behalf of experts are often ordered by the public prosecutor during the stages of investigation, or by the judge.
The second axis of taking responsibility for the child victims of sexual exploitation is education. Education appears as the necessary condition for the reintegration of young children who are often not attending school. Aiming to reintegrate the minor by placing him or her into the daily life of a group, the procedure of educational assistance supposes prolonged individual surveillance adapted to the personality of the victim. Numerous welcoming centers work in order to house and professionally educate young victims of sexual exploitation in order to give them the chance to leave prostitution. Working directly with the DPJJ and the services of the ASE, the Lieu d’Accueil et d’Orientation (LAO) of foreign, isolated minors that is run by the Red Cross of Taverny receives young minors who were placed into state housing due to their involvement in prostitution. In general, this undertaking of educational responsibility appears effective. According to a study conducted by the NGO Hors la-Rue in 2005, out of 418 isolated minors, 90% of those placed received an education and short-term professional skills trainings.
Taking responsibility for child prostitutes rests similarly on the third axis, information and accompaniment in all steps. The goal is to establish a dialogue with the child in order to explain their rights and the procedures that may help him or her, especially when the child in question is an immigrant.
If the child victim has the right to be housed in a home provided by the services of ASE, associations unfortunately acknowledge that there does not exist similar procedures of “secure welcoming” applicable to adult victims of human trafficking. The project of the Off the Streets foundation, aiming to allowing child victims to live far away from their exploiters, has not achieved its end. In practice, placement does not allow associations to fully take children out of the hands of sexual exploitation networks. The members of these networks willingly try to contact and convince minors to return within state housing.
As with any other child, those who are exploited are also entitled of specific rights, including the right to be heard by the French justice system. Once a child is in the custody of the institutional actors or association, the child must be informed of his or her rights according to article 388-1 of the civil code, following the law of March 5th, 2007 relative to the protection of childhood. The child victim also has the right to an attorney (article 388-1 paragraph 2, Civil code and article 20-2 of the Directive of 12/13/2011); it is important that the child can benefit from legal counsel and from appropriate defense. This right appears similar to the right of a child to be accompanied “throughout the investigation or judicial hearings” (article 706-53 Penal Code and article 20-3 paragraph f. of the Directive of 12/13/2011). The goal of this accompaniment is twofold: to reassure the child with the presence of a family member or specialized medical professional, and to facilitate the work of investigators. Despite these rules and regulations laid out by law, numerous associations cite the rare application of these procedures in cases involving child prostitution.
While judging the “satisfactory” measures put into place, certain associations regret that the application of these measures remains insufficient, due notably to a lack of means and the absence of coordination between independent actors responsible for child protections services. In a report in 2002 on “public politics and prostitution,” the French senate highlighted the necessity of raising awareness of prostitution through information distribution and public campaigns. It stated the “indispensable” nature of intervening in schools in order to promote an egalitarian education of the problem and recommended “to involve the Ministry of National Education,” in order to tackle the question of prostitution in the framework of a mandatory school curriculum.
Recently, the report of September 18th, 2012 of IGAS on “the health concerns of prostitution,” underlined the necessity of bringing particular attention to minors and to immigrants in unstable situations, and to better “approach the hidden side of prostitution.” This approach sites the importance of Internet monitoring.
In conclusion, if welcoming child victims of prostitutions appears to be a first step toward their reintegration into society, a minority of the children involved in the underworld of sex work has hitherto received necessary social services23.
- « Elle prostitue sa jeune sœur pour s’acheter un téléphone portable », L’Est Républicain, December 6th, 2012.
- « Il poussait ses copines à se prostituer », La Provence, September 20th, 2012.
- « La prostitution en pleine expansion, femmes et mineurs en première ligne », Le Monde, January 27th, 2012.
- « Lettre ouverte à Valérie Trierweiler : et si vous souteniez les enfants prostitués ? », Le Nouvel Observateur, June 10th, 2012.
- « Proxénétisme: 17 personnes interpellées », Le Figaro, October 1st, 2012.
- « Une experte encourage la France à mieux protéger les enfants contre l’exploitation », UN News Center, December 2nd, 2011.
- Aubin C., Jourdain-Menninger D., Emmanuelli J. (Dr), Prostitutions : les enjeux sanitaires, Inspection générale des affaires sociales (IGAS), December 2012.
- Derycke D., Les politiques publiques et la prostitution, Information report on the activity of the Delegation of women’s rights and of equal opportunities between men and women for the year 2000, No 209(2000-2001), Sénat, January 2001.
- Dhervilly L., Cretu M. R., Hilkens H.-D., Bellet P., Ispas A., Trunk S., Barbier Sainte Marie S., Zimmermann M. G., Manual of good practices concering the reinforcement and legal cooperation in order to fight against human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, and child pornography in the European Union. Project “Strenghtening judicial co-operation in combating trafficking of human beings in the European Union,” European Union specific programme “Criminal Justice 2010”, Bucharest, 2013.
- ECPAT, Guide de bonnes pratiques, L’exploitation sexuelle des enfants à des fins commerciales : détecter les victimes et initier les enquêtes, in : Rapport d’activités 2012, ECPAT-France, 2013.
- Joseph V., « Un sujet peu traité : la prostitution des mineurs », Les cahiers dynamiques, n.53, December 2011.
- O’Deye A., Joseph V., La prostitution des mineurs à Paris : Données, acteurs et dispositifs existants, Cabinet Anthropos, Ministry of Justice, October 2006.
- Association contre la prostitution des enfants (ACPE) : http://www.acpe-asso.org
- Council of Europe: http://www.coe.int/aboutcoe/index.asp?Lang=fr
- ECPAT France : http://www.ecpat-france.fr/ecpat.html
- The French Ministry of Justice, file: « mineur contraint à la prostitution » http://www.vos-droits.justice.gouv.fr/mineurs-victimes-11965/mineur-contraint-a-la prostitution-20719.html
Sex tourists are those who have a tendency to combine “Sea, sun… and sex.” More precisely, sex tourism generally implies leaving your home region in hope of buying sex services through prostitution. From that point forward, the term “tourism” becomes inappropriate. While tourism implies the joyful discovery of a different country, sex tourism involves practices that are reprehensible in both a legal and ethical framework, given these travelers take direct pleasure from paid sexual relations that often involve minors.
Sex tourism is the commercial exploitation of children, women, and men, by one or more travelers out of their home city, geographic region, or country. These travelers come from all over, and their destinations include numerous countries around the world. Payment for sex is, by and large, monetary. However, these marauding exploiters may also pay for their pleasure with clothing, food, or other means. Transactions take place in various circumstances and environments (brothels, 4 or 5 star hotels, palaces, etc.). Contrary to preconceived stereotypes, sex tourists come from all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds. There are those who are married or single, male or female, well off or financially insecure, young or old.
Two types of sex tourism exist. The first consists of the purchase of a sex tour on the Internet. In Ukraine, for example, numerous Turks head directly into the country after having purchased these tours on the Internet. They are put up in hotels, where prostitutes are then put at their disposition. Each night, they are generally led to different brothels. The second type of sex tour consists of safaris, which generally take place in nightclubs. The word safari reveals both the explicit and dehumanizing nature of the event, given that tourists roam around the city in groups, guided by locals, in order to “capture animals” at their will.
A lucrative phenomenon in full expansion
Tourism, in the general meaning of the word, is the most important industry in the world. This is due to the fact that it encompasses multiple interrelated sectors (restaurants, lodging, and vehicle renting, for example). It employs more than 8% of the world’s workforce and generates more revenue than any other sector of the world economy. The last publication of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) which held worldwide statistics on prostitution in 2012, highlighted this phenomenon: “Throughout the last sixty years, tourism has experienced a period of expansion and continued diversification, to become one of the most important and dynamic economic sectors in the world… Between 2010 and 2030, it is expected that the number of arrivals in emerging economies will rise twice as quickly (+4.4% annually) as arrivals in advanced economies (+2.2%)”
For all of these reasons, numerous countries are looking to use tourism as a supporting pillar of the economy, investment, and infrastructure development. A strong illustration of this phenomenon took place June 19th, 2012 when, for the first time in the history of G20 meetings, in Los Cabos, Mexico, travel and tourism were cited in the final summary provided by world leaders. In the minds of these men and women, the potential of the travel and tourism sectors has become clear. It is now seen as a means of creating millions of new jobs in the world economy, with the capacity to bring in billions of dollars in additional the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Despite the positive news of economic growth within the sector, roughly 10% of all 900 million tourists in 2011 chose their destinations by taking into account the country’s market for sex tourism. Since 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has claimed that, “sex commerce took the dimensions of an industry and has directly or indirectly contributed, in an undeniable measure, to employment, national revenue, and economic growth.” In effect, from a cynical point of view, it is impossible to find a better illustration of globalization. Responsive, effective, and lucrative organizations are implanted in all four corners of the world, perfectly mastering the theory of supply and demand. These organizations find people in search of work, and supply them with jobs based upon the state of the market and ever-changing demand.
To bring this discussion out of its hypocritical state, it is necessary to see how economic growth from sex tourism is founded on the degradation of female, child, and male victims of sexual abuse. What is worse, nations appear more eager than ever to incorporate revenue from prostitution into their annual GDP. It is unfortunate to note that, by legalizing a part of procuring, Germany and the Netherlands have made the choice to follow monetary interest placed in the framework of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. In the same line of reasoning, FEMEN denounced the fact that abolishing visas took place in order to develop tourism and open Ukraine to the West. In practice, however, this abolition additionally contributed to the development of sex tourism.
Finally, nations deserve heavy critique for allowing sex tourism to develop; for many, the goal of increasing economic expenditure makes them tacitly complicit in the industry. Nations often use revenues generated from prostitution in order to alleviate poor social support, unemployment benefits, or unequal economic opportunities for women. This practice deserves serious critique, given that much of this revenue is generated by the exploitation of children. Even though we know that the number of exploited children in the industry has increased, it remains impossible to fully portray the problem with hard data. Numerous factors render data collection difficult. First, sex tourism involving children is an illegal activity, often spread across the country or run by criminal organizations. Second, political actors are often embarrassed to admit the problem, and deny its existence or publically mitigate its importance. Those who ought to be responsible for bettering the country heavily fear the negative image that will be generated by admitting the problem. In their minds, an admission of child exploitation may stagnate the development of tourism.
Sports events, a powerful motor for tourism
The cause and effect relationship between large sporting events and the increase in sexual exploitation is a central question that has become increasingly critical in the last ten years. It is undeniable that the more a sporting event is publicized the more it attracts spectators. Given the influx of people traveling abroad to watch separate events, prostitution often becomes a problem in the areas that hold international games or tournaments. For the 2012 Euro Cup in Poland and Ukraine, tourists from the sixteen participating countries made the trek to watch the event. In the same fashion, during the 2012 Olympic Games in London, numerous supporters visited the country with personal interests that extended beyond their preferred sport.
Italians, Americans, Germans, and French chose girls in hotels that put catalogues of “services” at their disposition. These catalogues contained photos and short introductions of each girl. Clients were able to order whichever one suited their pleasure, in the same fashion as room service. The only difference between the two services was that, in this case, women or children replaced drinks and food.
FEMEN reported that numerous tourists, during the 2012 Euro Cup, after getting off of the plane, were directly given numerous offers for “massages.” They were also given a map of the city center, by the Office of Tourism, with addresses of “escort” services that included photos.
This solicitation during sporting events is internationally present. Sexually exploited women, men, and children are present in all corners; in train stations, airports, parks, the Internet, bars, night clubs, saunas, massage parlors, hostels, hotels, and brothels. The scene is similar to shopping mall, in which everything is available at arm’s reach. While the comparison is frightening, it is more than appropriate in relation to reality.
To combat this movement, FEMEN multiplied their actions, since 2012 in particular, by protesting topless, showing their bodies with slogans such as “Fuck Euro 2012.” Their fight continues to take place, in order to achieve, “the total eradication of prostitution, the most brutal form of female exploitation, by criminalizing clients, investors, and organizers of this commerce” (Ackerman, 2013).
The dangers of sex tourism
Sexual exploitation, which is a large part of sex tourism, is ranked third in the shameful list of the most important illegal industries, following drugs and arms. There is reason to be alarmed, due particularly to the inherent dangers of this practice.
Sex tourism promotes the transmission of sexually transmittable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, which affect vulnerable children. To illustrate this point, it is necessary to note that, out of 11,000 prostitutes in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, 1 out of 4 is estimated to be HIV positive (Euronews, June 8th 2012). In South-East Asia, entire villages in Burma have been decimated by HIV/AIDS, partly due to the return of child prostitutes who contracted the virus in Thailand.
In addition to the problem of infection, children are increasingly the victims of sex tourism. According to a study conducted by UNICEF in Costa Rica, 83% of boys and nearly 79% of girls interviewed have been the victims of sexual abuse before the age of twelve. Among these persons, 48% began prostitution around the same age, or beforehand. Most often these children are ethnic minorities, displaced or marginalized, and come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. However, whatever their background may be, these children who suffer from these treatments are often left with serious emotional, psychological, and physical scars. They develop feelings of guilt, depression, and occasionally commit suicide. In addition to having had their childhoods stolen, these children often find themselves stigmatized within their communities once they reach the age of maturity. Without the support of their community, they remain without normal social contact, and cannot fully evolve as a full member of society, as other children do. According to the NGO End Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), if Thailand and the Philippines enforced their legislation against child prostitution, countries such as the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Botswana, and Romania would be particularly affected.
Awareness and repression
The fight against sex tourism takes place, first and foremost, by awareness of the problem. In this way, tourists can report crimes committed by others. They have the opportunity to see illicit acts committed by other tourists and, as a result, can report to competent authority figures. An agreement was signed June 5th, 2012 between hotel professionals (Accor group), the police (the Direction de la Coopération Internationale-DCI and the Office central de répression des violences aux personnes - OCRVP) and ECPAT France, so that professionals, receptionists, and hotel managers know how to react in cases of suspicious behavior. The agreement produced a widely distributed guide on how to spot the signs of sex tourism. For example, if a single man checks in with an immigrant child who does not resemble his physical complexion, receptionists are trained to contact their superiors or, in emergency situations, police and social services.
From a strictly legal point of view, numerous countries have established laws to prosecute tourists who commit crimes of sexual exploitation within separate countries. A tourist can therefore be held responsible for his or her acts, whether in his own country or the country in which the crime took place. Legislation such as this is commendable, in so far as tourists are unable to find countries willing to harbor them from punishment. It is, in fact, one of the most important tools in the fight against sex tourism, as it lowers the probability of a traveler avoiding penalties. With regard to children, articles 34 and 35 of the International Convention of Child Rights call on signatory states to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation. The code of conduct for the protection of children in tourism and the travel industry (1998) that outlines an ethical framework of information was signed by nearly 600 tour operators, hotels, and travel agents, within 26 European, Asian, North American and South American countries.
In French law, involvement in child prostitution constitutes a legal violation both in France and abroad (Article 225-12-1 of the Penal Code). Sentences are determined by the gravity of the infraction24 and can reach up to 20 years of imprisonment. International legal cooperation between France and certain European states such as Bulgaria and Romania has largely demonstrated its efficacy and has continued to develop over the last ten years. With this cooperation, states do not limit their investigations according to their boarders, and are capable of responding against the transnational reality of sex tourism. Created by a decision of the European Council on June 13th, 2002, a simplified procedure of extradition between member states helped contribute to the efficacy and development of cooperation on a continental scale.
A fight that must not back down
Despite the mobilization of tourism professionals and a growing awareness of the phenomenon, notwithstanding the laws developed, sex tourism remains a growing problem with few legal cases underway. Contrary to all notions of progress, the trivialization of paid sex, the search of adventures and strong pleasures helps enlarge an industry, against which many states who value revenue are unwilling to fight.
In Ukraine, prostitution, though illegal, involves between 63,000 and 93,000 persons, according to unofficial statistics. But the act remains relatively unpunished. In addition, no legal cooperation between France and the Ukraine or Belarus has been put in place. According to FEMEN, “On paper, the sex industry is prohibited, but in reality if there is a brothel next to a police station, the police will not shutdown the establishment, but will protect it.”
One of the methods to continue the fight and create a strong barrier against sex tourism would be the criminalization of purchasing sex. The Norwegian model, inspired by Sweden, introduced a law to achieve this criminalization25. Concretely, the Norwegian client that buys sex services in his or her country or abroad, is committing a crime. FEMEN has convinced a Ukrainian congressman to initiate a legal project founded upon the idea of client penalization.
With three major sporting events: the 2013 Confederation Cup, the 2014 Soccer World Cup, and the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil is preparing for an influx of tourists, and everything appears to point toward an increase in sex tourism. An association of prostitutes is organizing, at this point, language courses in order to welcome tourists once they arrive. It is therefore necessary to continue the fight against prostitution, to raise awareness and to hold future travelers responsible for the issue of sex tourism, focusing in on the exploitation of children. The Fondation Scelles and other NGOs are calling for an international concentration of public and private efforts in order to help cure the scourge of sex purchased abroad.
- « Euro 2012 : le tourisme sexuel en question », Euronews, June 8th, 2012.
- « Le personnel hôtelier mieux sensibilisé », 20 Minutes, June 5th, 2012.
- Ackerman G., Femen, Calmann Lévy Ed., Paris, 2013.
- Amnesty International, Les dossiers de la commission d’enfants, n.15, April 2010.
- Bourguignon N., « Brésil : des cours d’anglais pour prostituées », Le Point, April 22th, 2013.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- ECPAT, Le tourisme sexuel impliquant des enfants : questions – réponses, 2008.
- Eolas (Maître), « Tourisme sexuel : que dit la loi ? », Le Post, October 9th, 2009.
- Fondation Scelles, ECPAT-France, SESI Brésil, Le tourisme sexuel impliquant des enfants & grands événements sportifs, October 23th, 2012.
- Legardinier C. Les trafics du sexe : femmes et enfants marchandises, Milan Ed., Collection « Les essentiels », 2002.
- Mexican G20 presidency, Sommet de Los Cabos – Déclaration des chefs d’État et de gouvernement, 2012.
- Rouverand B., De la prostitution comme sport collectif, Max Milo Ed., Paris, 2012.
- World Tourism Organization (WTO), UNWTO Tourism Highlights – 2013 Edition, 2013.
The analysis performed by the CRIDES26 of the Fondation Scelles, of public and private reports and articles published in 2012 on the business of prostitution allows us to measure and record sexual exploitation, in the same style as the previous year’s analysis. Our analysis reveals the creativity and cynicism of traffickers, the appetite of clients for complete legalization, and the increased pressure placed on victims. Three affairs, updated in 2012, illustrate worrying characteristics:
- Romanian prostitutes tattooed in France and in Spain (March)
- The offer of a prostitute for 10 car washes in Malaysia (October)
- The prostitution of a female orangutan in Indonesia (May)
Panorama of cases covered by the media in 201227
Channels of human trafficking and male prostitution (Kenya – Persian Gulf)
An activist is charged for having proposed sexual services to rural workers (China)
The case of a Romanian procurer (Ireland)
The boss of Paradise club in La Jonquera is pursued for evidence of involvement in human trafficking dating from 2008 (Spain)
The arrest of a procurer who recruited prostitutes in South America through the Internet (United Arab Emirates)
The head of a brothel which reduced 3 Thai women to “sexual servitude” is sentenced (Australia)
Case in Fribourg against a human trafficking network (Switzerland)
Beginning of Dominique Alderweireld’s (Dodo la Saumure) trial for procuring (Belgium)
The trial of Anna Gristina, involved in a network of escort girls for Wall Street (USA)
The arrest of numerous members of a Hispanic-Croatian network (Spain)
The dismantling of a Romanian network that tattooed its victims, in the suburbs of Madrid (Spain)
A 26 year sentence is given to the head of a network which sold women to be sent to China (Vietnam)
The owner of a cabaret in Fribourg is condemned to 22 months to be carried out in the case of recidivism, the charges of the director were then dropped, and he was given 6,000 Swiss francs in legal remuneration. (Switzerland)
Rapper T-Child sentenced to 50 years of prison for the prostitution of minors in Chicago (USA)
Secret Service agents questioned and critiqued for having paid for prostitution before the arrival of President Obama in Columbia (USA)
A female orangutan, a sex slave for 12 years in a brothel, is saved (Indonesia)
77 years in prison for 9 people accused of using English minors in prostitution. (United Kingdom)
A child prostitution network is dismantled (Australia)
Adolescents are condemned for procuring minors though the internet under the threat of physical violence (Canada)
170 years in prison for those involved in a child prostitution network (Nepal)
Zhang Ziyi, an actress, sues a newspaper that accuses her of prostitution (China)
5 Romanian procurers are released from prison (Northern Ireland)
14 Ethiopian victims of an Israeli prostitution network have been placed in detention since April due to a problem with specialized housing (Israel)
2 men testify in a procuring case in Oxford (United Kingdom)
7 years of prison for the Chinese owner of 5 brothels where violence and death threats were employed (Northern Ireland)
Arrest of a gangster nicknamed “The Hamster” who used prostitutes to blackmail politicians (Bulgaria)
Revelations in the ERGO case, in which the German insurer offered vacations to his best employees in Budapest with female prostitutes (Germany)
Arrest of foreign prostitutes in a club in Beijing (China)
The trial of travelers who had left Bangladesh after forcing a cleaning woman to become a prostitute (Dubai)
Police operation against general prostitution in Meuse-Rhin region (Germany)
Arrest of procurers who forced minors to become prostitutes (New Zealand)
A new case takes aim at a Nigerian network (Spain)
A car wash offers a loyalty card that gives clients the right to a prostitute after 10 visits (Malaysia)
The trial of French pedophiles in Marrakech (Morocco)
Dismantlement of a transsexual prostitute network from South America (Italy)
Dismantlement of numerous human trafficking networks (Switzerland)
A man and a woman auction off their virginity “to rescue those without proper housing” (Brazil)
4 men arrested for murdering an adolescent who refused to become a prostitute (Afghanistan)
4 persons condemned after the dismantlement of a Romanian procuring network (Belgium)
A procurer is condemned to death. He worked as a government employee by day, and a karaoke bar manager by night (China)
Chinese massage parlor networks hid numerous illegal brothels (The Netherlands)
Installing of parking meters for street prostitution in Zurich (Switzerland)
Dismantlement of a child prostitution network (Canada)
Procuring network on the Internet is dismantled (Indonesia)
A scandal is launched after the acquittal of 13 people suspected of kidnapping and prostituting young girls for VIP clientele (Argentina)
Dismantlement of a network exploiting Korean women for prostitution and the pornography industry (Taiwan)
Panorama of highly covered cases in France (2012)
Condemnation of Brazilian procurers (Brest)
Dismantlement of a Cameroon prostitution network (Caen)
Two Chinese prostitution networks discovered (Paris)
Closing of a libertine club “Les Chandelles” that used prostitutes (Paris)
Condemnation of Claudia “head procurer” (Marseille)
A prostitute is sentenced for violence against a handicapped client (Mulhouse)
Arrest of a procurer recruiting on the internet under the guise of being a racy photographer (Troyes)
New prostitution networks in Bois de Boulogne (Paris)
Dismantlement of a Romania network (Bordeaux)
Sentencing of 3 police officers for violence against a female prostitute (Colmar)
Arrest of Spanish procurers selling Mexican prostitutes on the internet (Tarbes)
Arrest of Hungarian procurers offering young women from the East (Metz)
Two prostitution networks discovered (Isère)
An investigation is launched against two men accused of assaulting 13 prostitutes (Versailles)
Dismantlement of a prostitution network in Roma camps where nearly 100 women were exploited (Béziers)
Dismantlement of a prostitution network in massage parlors (Paris)
One year of prison for a man recruiting prostitutes through chats with young girls online (Nanterre)
Seizing of a pavilion where an oriental cabaret involving prostitution was organized (Sevran)
Dismantlement of a network (Vigneux)
Prosecution of two Chinese women, one of whom had a fake Portuguese passport, who instigated prostitution in massage parlors (Caen)
Arrest of two authors of a Chinese prostitution subsidiary who proposed sex services by SMS (Lyon)
Zahia affaire: Ribery and Benzema are sent back to prison for solicitation of child prostitution (Paris)
A Chinese prostitution strangled (Paris)
A Romanian prostitute stabbed (Grenoble)
One person arrested and placed under electronic surveillance after a prostitute fell from a window (Nice)
A Bulgarian man sentenced to 6 months of prison for kidnapping a prostitute (Nice)
A man who prostituted minors and single mothers was condemned to 30 months in prison and fined 3,000 € (Avignon)
17 persons arrested for procuring, two of who are taekwondo champions (Rhône-Alpes)
Trial of two massage parlor managers (Béthune)
Creators of a Lebanese network, which forced models into prostitution, are judged. The affaire was revealed by a young Venezuelan woman who had been sold to M. Kaddafi’s son (Marseille)
A Bulgarian prostitute, mother of 5 children, gives up her last child after birth (Bordeaux)
9 persons responsible for a Nigerian network are judged for trafficking numerous young African women via Italy (Strasbourg)
3 and 2 years of prison without parole for procurers who restrained a women in the trunk of their car, left in the middle of a cemetery (Nice)
4 Romanian procurers arrested for exploiting Roma minors in parking lots (Wattrelos)
Procuring network dismantled (Bourges)
A man is arrested for having robbed numerous escort girls (Reims)
Arrest and sentencing to 6 months in prison for a manager of a site that offered South American prostitutes (Thonon-les-Bains)
Sentencing of a young woman who prostituted her little sister to buy herself a cell phone (Montbéliard)
Legal sanctions in 2012
Resembling numerous expert observations from the European Council, which stated that the number of victims in Europe in 2012 increased, while the number of condemned traffickers decreased, a look at the outline put together each year by legal records confirms a weakening of judicial responses. The appearance in 2012 of the 2011 outline allows us to reveal the following tendencies:
Condemnations for aggressive procuring
Numbers in 2010
Change in relation to 2010
Increase of 35%
Average length of
Increase of 12%
The rate of
condemnations for women
Increase of 18%
of foreign nationality
Increase of 2%
of prison sentences
Average fine given
Total of number of
infractions for procuring
Generally, even though the punishments for these infractions are more sever than the average sentence for all infractions (nearly three times more), the number of condemnations and the seriousness of punishments are decreasing.
It is meaningful to note that the period of investigations is lengthening (Provisory detention is extended, the length of legal procedures has decreased), and the period of legal trials shows a weakening for imprisonment and levying fines.
On the other hand, the profile of those condemned for aggravated procuring confirm that the specificity of these documents, with those sentenced older than average (57% are older than 25 years old, though only 17% of total criminals are this age), a growing involvement of female procurers (four times higher than general delinquency), and three times as many foreigners condemned than average.
In the French Penal Code, aggravated procuring, according to article 225-7, can be punished with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a 1,500,000 € ($2,055,900 USD) fine. The difference between the sentences given and those written in the books is largely due to the low levels of appeals made against the first condemnation, given that procurers often keep quite after their first trial and do not want to run the risk of seeing their punishment increased after appeal.
The gap between the fines given and the fines on the books shows that more work needs to be done in order to develop a more dissuasive response. What is needed is a combined approach that seizes the effects of traffickers before the procedure and provides financial punishments proportional to profits after the procedure.
The creation in 2010 of the Management and Recovering Agency of Seized and Confiscated Goods (AGRASC) in France, which allows a glimpse into the real processes of identifying, seizing, and confiscating criminal effects, has only been able to seize 2.6 million € ($3.5 million USD) of illicit profits generated from sexual exploitation.
A financial approach in the fight against sexual exploitation appears increasing indispensable. According to the United Nations, sexual exploitation has generated $32 billion USD of revenue in 2012, which makes it one of the most lucrative forms of modern criminality.
The outlook of the French Court of Cassation in 2012
The supreme legal court in France has few occasions to examine the current state of procuring and human trafficking laws. Out of 9,000 decisions given in 2012 by the criminal chamber, only 16 concerned either sexual exploitation or human trafficking, which is not surprising given that those tried are not likely to appeal up to the Court of Cassation. There are three principal observations to make. On one side, appeals are principally used for procedural decisions and are not used to challenge the facts of the case, to combat provisory detention, obligations of state-protection, or refusals of restitution. All of the above continues to push forward the discussion on the reality of charges and the sentences prescribed.
From another side, the strategies of destabilizing the repressive response were based upon the constitutionality of the legal cases in question. The Court has pushed back fundamental questions of constitutionality five times, underlining the fact that the aggravated charges as defined by the law, were proportional to what needed to be done in the fight against procuring. (Arrests number 1190116, 1190115, 1190116, 1290002 and 1290001).
From the final frontier of observation, the absence of debates held in front of the Court of Cassation, to give a precise definition to human trafficking, is unfortunate. This absence of precise precedents on the elements that constitute an infraction whose framework remains relatively hard to use and largely ignored by magistrates handling cases of procuring.
This is, however, the point of view of GRETA experts that, at the end of their evaluation of the French state in 2012, suggest a revision of the definition of the crime of human trafficking, and who highlighted the low number of trials (4 since 2007) that lead to sentencing for the heads of human trafficking networks.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings) Council of Europe, Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by France, First cycle of evaluation, GRETA(2012)16, Strasbourg, January 28th, 2013.
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- Population: 3.2 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 4,149
- Parliamentary regime
- Human development index (HDI): 0.749 (70th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.251 (41st rank among 147 countries)
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Prostitution is illegal. Prostitutes, clients and procurers are penalized by the law established on March 1st, 2012.
- Absence of any national data on the domestic trade phenomenon.
- Country of origin for slave victims trafficked to Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Kosovo, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
On March 1st, 2012, the Albanian Parliament passed a law penalizing sexual services customers.This law is part of the governmental efforts to repress the prostitution phenomenon, as well as organized crime. The new law imposes prison sentences with a maximum term of 3 years for clients and from 5 to 15 years for procurers. Prostitutes are also condemned by the law and face sentences ranging from fines to 3 years of imprisonment. This evolution of Albania towards a global prohibitionist juridical system has had little coverage in both national and foreign press. This lack of attention is symptomatic of an obvious disinterest in prostitution in Albania, as opposed to the transnational trafficking on human beings, which is more “sensational” in the eyes of foreign observers and media.
Overview of the fight against slave trade
Albania remains a country of origin of slave trade victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The main destinations of the Albanian victims are Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Kosovo, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and the UK.The phenomenon of internal trafficking persists, however, its scale is hard to determine.
The U.S. Department of State has estimated that Albanian authorities were not making enough efforts in the struggle against the slave trade. This led to the downgrading of Albania in the Report of 2012 on human trafficking. As a result, Albania went from tier 2 to the tier 2 watch list28.
The number of people charged and sentenced for human trafficking by the Albanian judicial authorities has strongly diminished in 2012, as reflected in the table below.
Number of people charged
Number of people sentenced
This can be explained partly by a very high staff turnover rate in the judicial sector and the police. In 2012, 114 judges, prosecutors and police officers pursued specific training to struggle against trafficking. But, in spite of these significant efforts to train the staff, the major part remains untrained for these matters. Consequently, many victims find themselves suspected of prostitution, devoid of the assistance and protection to which they are entitled. In 2012, at least 3 victims of human trafficking were sentenced for their involvement in prostitution. In one of the cases, the Court sentenced both a trafficker and one of his victims for prostitution, which demonstrates the lack of training of the judges.
Moreover, the Albanian Government removed from office the National Coordinator of Combating Human Trafficking, whereas its efficiency did not seem to be discussed. As a result of the position remaining vacant for five months the interdepartmental cooperation and public-private cooperation severely suffered.
Most of the research on the phenomenon of human trafficking in Albania has been conducted by national and international NGOs. The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) believes that the authorities should direct and encourage more research on trafficking since such work is necessary for the establishment of future political dispositions. Internal slave trafficking and the slave trade for commercial sexual exploitation purposes appear amongst the priority areas suggested by the GRETA.
In 2012, the number of identified victims has increased compared with 2011 (84 to 92 victims identified, including 26 minors). A total of 138 victims were received in 2012 by hosting centers handled by the Government or by NGOs. These centers terribly lack funding. The allocated government funds only cover the minimal food needs of the victims. No financial help has been allocated to support the needs of the victims with dependent children.
Two adult and one minor victims went missing in 2012 while they were hosted in government facilities.
Finally, the freedom of movement of the received victims was restrained.
Roma and Egyptian minorities: very vulnerable populations to trafficking
Although Albanian law forbids all discrimination (whether they are based on gender, race, color, ethnicity, language or sexual orientation), Roma and Egyptian minorities suffer from strong discriminations in the Albanian society and from the authorities. With no ID, no education, and no possibility to achieve reasonable economic security, Roma and Egyptian minorities, especially women and children, are easy targets for human beings traffickers (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, 2013).
A frightening underestimation of the number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS
Albania considers itself as a country, where the HIV/AIDS contamination rate is low. But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 2,590 people out of a population of about 3 million inhabitants have undergone HIV/AIDS testing in 2011.In Albania, only 2% of health centers provide AIDS testing. Among the new cases of people affected in 2011, 73% are men (WHO, 2004). But what about the women victims of trafficking or prostitution who are also a highly exposed group?
In Albanian society, women are generally considered as human beings with no decision-making power.Therefore, it appears almost impossible for a woman, even more so for a female prostitute or victim of trafficking, to negotiate condom use with a man. They are then left in great danger of contamination. Plus, the stigma associated with the disease is such that they hesitate to take an AIDS test. Women are held responsible for the propagation of HIV/AIDS. If a member of the family is infected, the women have to pay for the cost of medical care. Moreover, infected women are discriminated against more than their male counterparts.
The figures published by the Albanian Government indicate a high increase since the early 2000’s, as shown in the chart below.
The Government is not indifferent to this evolution. A national strategy to fight the epidemic was elaborated on during the 2010-2015 period. New laws have been adopted, including the law on prevention of HIV/AIDS contamination of 2008, and the law for the protection against discrimination of 2010. Insofar, the authorities do not acknowledge prostitutes and trafficking victims as being part of the populations at highest risk, like injection drug users and men having sexual intercourse with other men.
About sixteen NGOs focus their efforts on fighting HIV/AIDS. Some of them, such as the Albanian Coalition for Promotion of Women and Youth in Politics (ACPD) and the National Association of Public Health (NAPH), work with Roman minorities in Tirana, and in other towns of the country. The NGOs carry out prevention activities with a particular emphasis on youth. They use various formats (televised programs, radio, posters, brochures, seminars, painting exhibits…). This is an important work because many Albanian have very limited knowledge regarding the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and general sexuality matters. Today, one regrets that no teaching of this kind is broadcast in schools (European Scientific Journal, november 2012).
The hard rehabilitation of trafficking victims
A survey released in 2012 speaks specifically about the rehabilitation of trafficked human beings in Albania. It describes the multiple barriers that victims can encounter while seeking rehabilitation. The culture of shame developed during the communist era appears as the cornerstone of all these difficulties. Indeed, it drives the community to reject the slave trade victims by making them suffer all kinds of humiliation. The fear of seeing one’s reputation affected by the simple association with a victim is very common.
The Albanian context is very unfavorable to women. Trafficking victims are considered as guilty of leaving their home, and bringing dishonor on their whole family. Some parents say they would rather see their daughter dead than coming home as a victim of the slave trade. According to the survey author, the rehabilitation programs must be immediately directed at this culture of shame.
Despite the conformity of the Albanian laws regarding the fight against human trafficking with international standards, one can see that those are rarely applied. A rampant corruption in the power structures and a high turnover rate of the staff concerned by this issue are the reasons of this obvious inefficiency.
The social integration of Roman and Egyptian minorities and the enhancement of women’s place in society should be part of the priority goals of the Albanian Government, if it seriously wishes to fight trafficking. More attention should be given to the phenomena of internal trafficking, and prostitution and HIV/AIDS infection, especially for female prostitutes and trafficking victims. The influence of mentalities is considerable, but the NGOs alone cannot work miracles. One must hope that the politicians will know how to take the lead on this issue, and adopt a proactive legislation on prevention and information.
- « Albanie/prostitution : les clients pénalisés », Europe 1 (avec AFP), March 1st, 2012.
- Amnesty International, Albania must suspend discriminatory measures against Roma, August 1st, 2012.
- Amnesty International, Annual Report 2012 – Albania, 2012.
- Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Recommendation CP(2012)1 on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Albania, adopted at the 7th meeting of the Committee of the Parties, January 30th, 2012.
- Committee on the Rights of the Child, Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, List of issues concerning additional and updated information related to the consideration of the initial report of Albania, CRC/C/OPSC/ALB/1, Written replies of Albania, July 19th, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- ECPAT International, Global monitoring: status of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children – Albania, second edition, 2012.
- GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings), Council of Europe, Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Albania, First evaluation round, GRETA(2011)22, Strasbourg, December 2nd, 2011.
- Marion D.L., « Unlocking the Roots of Stigma Towards Victims of Trafficking in Albania », Capston Collection, Paper 2491, 2012.
- Muca E., « Trafficking in human beings: paradigms of a successful reintegration into society (Albanian case) », European Scientific Journal, Vol. 9, n.4, février 2013.
- Republic of Albania, Ministry of Health, Institute of Public Health, National Aids Program, Tirane, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, April 2013.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- World Health Organization (WHO), Regional Office for Europe, Key Facts on HIV Epidemic in Albania and Progress in 2011, 2013.
- Zeka X., Gjergji E., Hodaj M., « The impacts of HIV AIDS on families and communities in Albania », European Scientific Journal, Vol. 8, n.26, November 2012.
- Albanian Coalition for Promotion of Women and Youth in Politics (ACPD) :
- National Association of Public Health (NAPH) : http://www.naph-al.org/al/
- Population: 36.5 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 5,404
- Presidential regime
- Human development index (HDI): 0.713 (93rd rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.391 (73rd rank among 147 countries)
- Member of the African Union since 1963.
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- The Algerian Criminal Code, implemented in 1966, prohibits prostitution.
- Human trafficking has been illegal since 2009, but the government has not yet participated in a trafficking lawsuit.
- Age of sexual consent is 16 years old; legal age of marriage for girls is 18 years old; however, forced marriage for children is frequent.
- Corruption throughout the police force, as well as a serious lack of victim protection.
- Country of transit for sub-Saharan men and women attempting to travel to Europe, to a lesser extent a country of origin and destination.
The state of human rights in Algeria is as hard to describe as it is to discern. Ending a 19 year state of emergency in February of 2011, Algeria no longer suffers the same level of violence and political instability which plagued it since its independence in 1962, and human rights violations have dropped since the end of the civil war of the 1990’s. However, state control of broadcast media and repressive press laws make it difficult to form a real picture of the current state of human rights. In particular, the level of protection of the rights of women and children remain unclear, and sexual exploitation is rarely reported.
Prostitution was a regulated institution under French colonial rule, from 1830 to 1962, but is now illegal under the Criminal Code of 1966. There are no national statistics on prostitution, and there is very little information on human trafficking, which was made illegal in 2009 under an amendment to section 5 of the Criminal Code. The 2012 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking lists Algeria as a tier 3 country, mainly a transit state for Sub-Saharan migrants on their way to Europe, and to a lesser degree a source and destination country for forced labor, organ harvesting and prostitution. In the past decade Algeria has seen a rise in sexual violence against children, as well as public mob violence against prostitutes.
A History of French Regulationism
The French administration in Algeria first began regulating prostitution one month after they conquered Algiers in 1830. Prostitutes were expected to register with the mezuar, a high ranking police functionary, and attend weekly medical exams. There were an estimated 13,000 registered prostitutes throughout the territory of Algeria, although the numbers in rural areas, particularly in the Kabylia were difficult to determine. Algiers was home to a vast number of “clandestine” prostitutes, either un-registered girls, or boys working out of bath-houses and cafes maores (illegal establishments where boys would dance for a male audience). Clandestine prostitution reportedly outnumbered the legal sex trade by approximately four to one. Somewhere around 65 legal prostitutes per year in the 1850s would remove their names from the registry list, often to obtain fake marriage certificates in order to avoid the high taxes placed on legal prostitution. Male prostitution and homosexuality were both illegal, and thus not directly regulated, although there were restrictions placed on the public bath houses where men were known to go for homosexual prostitution.
The majority of legal establishments, or maisons de tolerance, were in the European quarter of Algiers, and provided mainly European girls to European clients. In 1856 there were 4 brothels in Algiers, with not a single Algerian girl, this number only slightly increased in 1899, when out of the 13 brothels in Algiers, and 99 registered prostitutes, only 5 were Algerian.
Outside of Algiers regulation was less stringent, and the records thus less precise. Some ethnic groups within the Kabylia, such as the Oulded-Rabah and Beni-Amnernm, institutionalized prostitution on their own, by recording and heavily taxing “public” prostitutes. In Constantine, prostitution was seen as a means of familial income, and un-married girls would leave their rural villages to go to the cities to become prostitutes or dancers, later returning home to marry.
Although the detailed reporting on prostitution during French colonial rule ended at the start of the war in 1954, some reports of prostitutes being used as informants by the National Liberation Front (FLN) exist. Prostitutes and “dancers” were recruited as spies by the independence movement due to their contact with French troops. Nationalist propaganda from the war depicted prostitutes as victims of the colonial system’s attack on the Algerian family system, and informing was seen as a means of redemption for “shamed” girls.
Sexual Exploitation today
The Algerian Criminal Code, enacted in 1966, prohibits the solicitation of prostitution, and places the age of consensual sex at 16, and of marriage at 18. Rape, solicitation of prostitution, and pornographic material of a minor (under 16 years old) is punishable by 10 to 20 years imprisonment, although it is rarely carried out. In addition, any pornography is illegal and punishable with up to 2 years in prison or a fine of $27 USD. As of February 2009, human trafficking is illegal under the amended Criminal Code, with penalties of 3-10 years for trafficking for labor or sexual exploitation. However, according to the 2012 Human Rights Watch report, the government of Algeria has yet to prosecute a true human trafficking case. Women’s rights are limited by the Family Code of 1984, and forced and early marriage and marital rape remain very real issues (CATW, 1998).
A Passage to Europe
According to the 2012 Human Rights Watch report, there are an estimated 9,000 sub-Saharan trafficking victims in Algeria. Many of these come from neighboring Mali, where increased violence and political unrest has led to vast emigration. Many sub-Saharan victims enter Algeria voluntarily through the southern border near Tamanrasset, and while some continue on to Europe through the northern borders, others have their papers confiscated by their smugglers and are forced to work off their debts, whether by forced labor and domestic work, or prostitution. Although denied by the Algerian government, the U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking states that the “chairmen” of the “African Villages” or non-Algerian ethnic areas around Tamanrasset, are often responsible for the forced prostitution of smuggled sub-Saharan women. An article in El Watan in December 14th, 2012 described the corruption and trafficking at the eastern border near El Tarf. An interview with a border security officer detailed how Algerian girls were sent to Tunisia, often with the aid of high ranking police officers and even imams. According to the interview these girls were to be sold as prostitutes, and often came from Annaba, Guelma, and Souk Ahras.
In 2012, three Algerians were convicted under the illegal immigration law of human smuggling, for transporting illegal immigrants from Algeria to Morocco, and it was suggested that they may have confiscated the immigrants’ passports in order to extort a higher price.
Algerian trafficking victims mainly end up in France, Italy, and increasingly Israel (Protection Project, 2010). The traffickers, clients and procurers of prostitutes in Algeria are rarely prosecuted. Instead when a prostitution operation becomes public, the victims are arrested, and if they are trafficked persons, or in the country illegally, are deported through the southern border at Tamanrasset. Reports from the Algeria’s government state that undocumented migrants are given a week in a detention center in Tamanrasset, as well as medical care and 3 meals a day before being turned over to their respective governments. However NGO’s reported that out of the 8,000 persons deported through Tamanrasset, the majority are simply given a liter of milk a bit of bread and left at the border in the Sahara where many die.There are currently no government operated shelters for trafficking victims, and NGOs are prohibited from running any shelters for undocumented migrants (U.S. Department of State, 2012).
Annaba, a criminal haven
Annaba has become notorious as a haven for illegal sub-Saharan immigrants hoping to find passage to Europe. With its constant influx of poor, undocumented migrants crime, including prostitution, is rampant. Young girls are tricked into paying smugglers for a passage to Europe which never comes, and often then turn to prostitution in desperation (L’Expression, March, 11th, 2013). A 2004 article looked into the lives of street children in Annaba, and in particular child prostitutes. According to the author the number of children, abandoned by parents too poor to care for them, living in the streets of Annaba is vastly underreported and rapidly rising. An interviewed police psychiatrist stated that the government did little to help these children, and what they did do made little difference. Most often the children, some as young as 7 years old, are picked up when caught soliciting, kept overnight at the police station, given breakfast paid for out of the police officers own pockets and sent to reeducation centers where they may stay a day or two before running back to the streets (Algerie, August 29th, 2004).
In 2012 the Affaire d’Annaba hit France and Algeria when a former member of a French Ministry, along with an imam and five Algerian gynecologists were arrested in Annaba for running a pornography studio (L’Expression, March 23rd; 2012). Jean-Michel Baroche took in over 96,000 € ($131,577 USD) per month creating and selling pornography under the guise of running a modeling agency “Glamour Arabian Talent” (Le Parisien, March 26th, 2012). Baroche reportedly lured girls to his studio, with the promise of a modeling career, and gifts, then drugged them and forced them to participate in the films. Some of the girls were as young as 16. The gynecologists involved were used to create false certificates of virginity, or even perform hymen reparation operations (El Watan, May 9th, 2012).
Kidnappings on the Rise
Between 1992 and 1998, during the first part of the civil war, an estimated 4,000 Algerian women were the victims of kidnapping, rape, and murder. In that time, at least 500 girls were kidnapped from rural villages and raped or forced into temporary marriages or prostitution before being murdered (CATW, 1998). Similar reports continued into the early 2000’s, and have for the most part been blamed on Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Al-Qaida union with the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). The GSPC has also been known to take children to use as child soldiers or human shields (Protection Project, 2010). Since 2003 urban kidnappings have been on the rise. In 2011 over 500 children between 10 and 16 years old disappeared, many were found dead with signs of sexual abuse (Al Monitor, January 21st, 2013). One report states that there were 276 forced disappearances of children in 2012, with almost all resulting in sexual abuse and murder (Magharebia, March 3rd, 2013). Algerian children have also been kidnapped and trafficked to Morocco for organ harvesting; from there their organs are generally sold in Israel and the U.S. (Protection Project, 2010).
The small northern city of Tichy, of 17,000 inhabitants, is thought to have as many as 1,500 prostitutes, and has become a sex tourism destination (L’Expression, June 25th, 2011). Since 1993 there has been a strong movement against the level of prostitution in the small beach-side city. According to Mohand Haddadi, an active member of a group fighting to eliminate prostitution in Tichy, there are housing projects rented out entirely to prostitutes, and the city has become a “refuge” for prostitutes throughout the region (La Nation, August 16th, 2011). In 2010, after failing to persuade the Gendarmerie to clear out the prostitution venues, the people of Tichy took to the streets to protest, which eventually turned into a riot and lead to the arrest of 46 of the suspected prostitutes, of which eight were detained and 10 were exiled from the region (News24, June 10th, 2011).
While the majority of the damage done in the 2010 Tichy riots was to property, others have had more disturbing outcomes.
In 2010, a series of home invasions, in which several young women were stabbed, beaten, robbed, and raped, was all but ignored by the police. One officer reportedly told a victim that he would not help her and that for all she knew he could be one of the assailants, another victim was told that if she wanted help she should just leave the city.
In 2011, in Hassi Messaoud, a city in south east Algeria, around 500 Islamic extremists attacked women suspected of being prostitutes. Any woman without a husband was considered a suspect; including many widows with young children who had moved to the city to work as domestic servants. Over the course of 5 hours over 40 women were beaten, tortured, and raped, 20 women were cut across the face and an unofficial report stated that 6 died.
Overall, the instability of Algerian government has lead to insufficient action against the sexual exploitation of women and children. In addition, information coming from the state itself is sparse and often inaccurate. The rampant corruption and abuses by the police in regards to prostitution as well as trafficking victims need to be addressed in order to ameliorate the situation. Furthermore Shari’a law, as well as the Family Code, is preventing victims from obtaining the help they need and enabling the perpetrators of sex crimes. However, 2012 did see some attempted accountability on the part of the Algerian government, and increased international involvement, which may lead to advances at least on the trafficking front. In November 2012, the Director of Judicial Police of Algiers was elected to the Executive Committee of INTERPOL. Additionally, the Observatoire Algérien des Droits de l’Homme (Algerian Observatory fur Human Rights) was created July 12, 2012.
- « Affaire de production de films pornographiques d’Annaba », Liberté Algérie, March 26th, 2012.
- « Algeria cracks down on ‘prostitutes’ », News 24, June 10th, 2011.
- « Algeria tackles child abduction », Magharebia, March 4th, 2013.
- « Algérie a une place au Comité Exécutif d’Interpol », L’Expression, November 18th, 2012.
- « Annaba- Affaire du réalisateur français de films pornos », El Watan, May 9th, 2012.
- « Annaba : l’eldorado des noirs africains », L’Expression, March 11th, 2013.
- « Deux sœurs à tête d’un lieu de débauche », Setif.info, January 8th, 2012.
- « Entretien avec Mohand Haddadi, membre actif du mouvement pour le départ des prostituées de Tichy », La Nation, August 16th, 2011.
- « Frontières est : prostituées, zelta, cigarettes… tout passé », El Watan, December 14th, 2012.
- « Prostitution des mineurs à Annaba », Algerie-dz, August 29th, 2004.
- « Rise in Child Abductions Shocks Algerian Society », Al Monitor, January 21th, 2013.
- « Seven Arrested for Anti-Prostitution Terror Attack in Algeria », Al Bawaba, July 16th, 2001.
- « Tichy mène la guerre au tourisme sexuel », L’Expression, June 25th, 2011.
- « Un ex-responsable français devant le juge », L’Expression, March 23th, 2012.
- « Un Français écroué en Algérie », Le Parisien, March 26th, 2012.
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation, 1998.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Dunne B.W., « French Regulation of Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Algeria », The Arab Studies Journal, 2.1 (1994): 24-30, 1994.
- Dunne Bruce W., « French Regulation of Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Algeria », The Arab Studies Journal, Vol.2, n.1, spring 1994.
- Freedom House, Freedom in the World Report: Algeria, 2013.
- Human Rights Watch, World report 2013 – Events of 2012, Country Summary: Algeria, 2013.
- Mortkowitz, S., Ait Kaci, H. « Who will save the women of Hassi Messaoud », news.monstersandcritics.com, April 27th, 2010.
- Protection Project (The), A Human Rights Report on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children : Algeria, 2010.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor Report, September 2013.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2012.
- UNODC, Global report on trafficking in persons, December 2012.
- Vince, N., « Transgressing boundaries: gender, race, religion, and “Françaises musulmanes” during the Algerian War of Independence », French historical studies, Vol. 33, n.3, 2010.
- Observatoire Algérien des Droits de l’Homme: http://oadh.org/
- Population: 41.1 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 11,558
- Federal republic
- Human development index (HDI): 0.811 (45th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.380 (70th rank among 147 countries)
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Every year there are cases of disappearing girls (mostly under the age of 13) and women, victims of sexual trafficking networks.
- Prostitution is mostly found in the Center and South of the country, such as in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata.
- Prostitution is legal but the exploitation of brothels and human trafficking are prohibited by a law that was established in 2008.
- Country of origin, trade and destination for human trafficking, especially with the purpose of sexual exploitation.
- Victims primarily native to poor provinces in the North of the country, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.
Every year, hundreds of young girls (some of whom may be less than 13 years old) and young women disappear in Argentina, the victims of networks involved in sex trafficking. They are sold, each at a different price.
These victims of sexual exploitation most often originate from the poor northern provinces of the country. Some of them come from even poorer neighboring countries, such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru or even the Dominican Republic. During the initial stages, they are systematically beaten and raped in order to break their will. Afterwards, they are forced into prostitution in the cities of Central and Southern Argentina, such as Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata.
Besides the more widespread occurrence of disappearances, another reality coexists, namely the fact that some women agree to be victims of sexual exploitation. In this case, the primary motivation is economic, reinforced by secondary family pressures.
To this day, prostitution remains legal in Argentina. However, the management of brothels and human trafficking are not. In fact, those activities constitute federal crimes since 2008 under a law successfully passed, which was lobbied by Susana Trimarco Veron, a national heroine honored many times in Argentina and in the United States and whose name has been mentioned for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since the enactment of this legislation, 2,827 victims of sexual exploitation or forced labor have been rescued (Le Matin, February 10th, 2012).
Susana Trimarco de Veron, a “bold mother, enemy of procurers”
Susana Trimarco de Veron was trying to find her daughter, Maria, who was abducted in 2002 by a prostitution network. At first, she looked for her on her own, before creating the Foundation Maria de Los Angeles, after which she received help in order to trace back the supply channels of young women for brothels. The Foundation, which brought together nearly twenty people – lawyers, psychologists and social workers – was able to rescue nearly 400 victims of sexual exploitation (BBC News, April 2nd, 2012). A single mother of humble background, Susana Trimarco de Veron is behind the arrest of a group of procurers tried in San Miguel, in the province of Tucuman, Northern Argentina.
The trial of thirteen men and women charged with having run brothels and been involved in the kidnapping of Susana’s daughter was the most publicized. Their acquittal shocked Argentina and led to a wave of protests of indignation throughout the country. According to Susana Trimarco de Veron’s legal counsel, the judgment highlights the ongoing impunity in Argentina. They decided to appeal this decision.
For her part, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – who is very involved in the fight against human trafficking for sexual exploitation – said that although she was unable to prove it, she was convinced that the acquittals in question were a direct result of the corruption of the judges involved. To this end, she added that it was appropriate and imperative to proceed with the democratization of the justice system.
Police and justice corruption
According to NGOs and international organizations, a number of federal officials are directly and/or indirectly involved in human trafficking. Some police officers turn a blind eye to the activities of trafficking and forced prostitution, and some judges fail to examine the cases in front of them in depth.
The authorities are still in the process of investigating 75 federal police officers removed from office for their complicity in human trafficking (U.S. Department of State, 2012). The former head of the anti-dealer police unit is under investigation for having operated several brothels for his own benefit.
Due to the corruption that exists in both government and society, it remains difficult to fight against the phenomenon of sexual exploitation. In order to move in that direction, Susana Trimarco Veron explained that "politicians and police officers should stop being customers of those places for the fight against trafficking in women to become effective."
In the case of Maria de los Angeles Veron, a police officer mentioned that after receiving authorization to search the brothels of La Riojaen 2002, a judge made his unit wait for several hours, allowing the kidnappers of Susana Trimarco Veron’s daughter to move her. This analysis was subsequently confirmed by the testimony of a victim of sexual exploitation, who reported seeing Maria leave immediately before the police arrived.
Health of the victims
As victims of sexual exploitation, those working in Argentina are likely to be struggling with various sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Promising better pay and by blatant refusal, clients will demand the girls to prostitute themselves without the protection of a condom, directly increasing exposure to venereal disease. Admitting that it helps them to prostitute themselves, a growing number of women consume alcohol on a regular basis, while others take up the habit of harder drugs.
These risk factors are accompanied by a marginalization of the victims. Less than 10% of them have health coverage. As a result, they have a limited access to prevention or treatment programs.
In addition, victims of sexual exploitation have a hard time aborting when they choose to do so. Indeed, even though Argentina allows abortion in cases of rape or dangers to mothers’ health, politicians, doctors and judges continue to deny that right to victims of sexual exploitation.
A decision of the Supreme Court, dated March 2012, is expected to remove the barriers to abortion and keep judges from preventing the process of abortion. In a case dealt with by the Supreme Court, a judge previously held that there was no evidence of rape even though the 32 year old woman had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution. The Supreme Court overturned the judge’s decision and forced health professionals to urgently practice an abortion on the woman, whose pregnancy had entered in its 10th week.
The decision of the Supreme Court, adopted by six out of seven judges, also blames the mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, and the judge, Miriam Rustan de Estrada, for revealing details of the case that led anti-abortion protesters to gather in front of the public hospital where the victim was having surgery and later in front of her home.
Data from the Argentinian Ministry of Health show that 80,000 women are hospitalized each year for complications resulting from illegal abortions, and suggest that 500,000 women resort to illegal abortions, as stated by women's rights activist Estela Diaz (Le Nouvel Observateur, October 12th, 2012).
Although significant progress can be noted, the Argentinian government is still not fully involved in the fight against prostitution or against human trafficking.
To this end, the anti-trafficking law would have to be strictly applied to punish the perpetrators, including when complicit government officers are involved. Funds for helping victims should be increased in partnership with NGOs. Also, the victims would be better helped if they were known. As such, it would be appropriate to develop and implement protocols for local officials to identify and assist victims of trafficking and to intensify efforts to raise awareness of all forms of trafficking in persons.
- « Argentine: la Cour Suprême accorde le droit d’avorter à une femme victime de prostitution forcée », Challenges, October 12th, 2012.
- « Cristina Fernandez bashes the Judiciary on scandalous forced prostitution case ruling », Merco Press, December 13th, 2012.
- « Fury across Argentina as judges are accused of corruption after clearing 13 people of sex slavery charges », Daily Mail/AP, December 13th, 2012.
- Angelès Pando M. (de los), Reynaga E., Coloccini R.S., Fermepín M.R., Kochel T., Montano S.M., Marone R., Avila M.M., « Prevalencia de la infección por el VIH y de Treponema pallidum en mujeres trabajadoras sexuales de Argentina », Revista Panamerica de Salud Pública, Vol. 30, n.4, October 2011.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Hernandez V., « Confronting Argentina’s people-traffickers », BBC News, April 2nd, 2012.
- Molnar L., « Une mère courage ennemie jurée des proxénètes », Le Matin, February 10th, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- Population: 22.9 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 67,036
- Constitutional Monarchy
- Human development index (HDI): 0.938 (2nd rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.115 (17th rank among 147 countries)
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Province of Victoria: 95 licensed establishments according to regulation authorities, at least 400 illegal establishments according to police forces.
- Prostitution legalized by licenses for establishments: Victoria, Queensland.
- Illegal organized prostitution (establishments): Western Australia, Southern Australia, Northern territory and Tasmania.
- Divisions 270 and 271 of the Penal Code repress all forms of trafficking and forced prostitution (12 to 25 years of imprisonment, $152,000 fine).
- Destination country for trade victims with the purpose of prostitution: largely Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and China.
As prostitution legislation is under the states' and territories' responsibility, Australia stands for a very interesting case, which uses various approaches, that cover most of the responses commonly met in other countries. Models defined by legislature want from the criminalization of all forms of organized prostitution (Southern Australia) to its complete decriminalization. (New South Wales). In 2012, four states and territories (Southern Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Territory capital and Tasmania) were the subjects of an intense fight by different lobbies and pressure groups: passionate debates, epic votes for law propositions, arguments by interposing medias, official and university reports, public consultations etc. If the experiences and testimonies vary, supplying the speeches of two radically opposing visions, one notes, a certain evolution of mentalities. The speech on the professionalisation and the "secure" framework of prostitution, still popular some months ago, does not systematically mean unanimity. Those elected no longer hesitate to express their different visions outloud, denouncing a world of exploitation and violence significantly controlled by the sex industry. Trade does not always take precedence over humans. Speech becomes free.
The lobby war
In Western Australia, an amendment to the Prostitution Control Act 2000, aiming to remove prostitutes and brothels from residential zones, was submitted to a vote by authorities under the increasing public pressure. When most predictions were forecasting a favorable outcome to the bill, two representatives took advantage of the debates to ask for their own proposals to be included in the general text in exchange for their vote. Janet Woollard, not politically labeled, has thus proposed that the ban be effective within a 5 year period, that the number of prostitution establishments and of prostitutes employed therein be limited.
Adèle Carles, from the Green party, has granted her vote under the condition of an amendment, resembling that of the Swedish model: a fine for the clients (a little more than 100 € - $136.75 USD) if they solicitate in the street, reinforcing the jail sentence for brothel owners who use minors, financial support for the victims, and making shelter and reintegration tools available for all those who show a desire to leave the sex industry. The general outcry was at the peak of claims. The Labor party strongly opposed the bill deeming that it would automatically end up in the rise of underground prostitution. For the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Liberal Party, making prostitution illegal in Western Australia is absolutely unrealistic. “I would love for it to be possible but everyone knows that it’s not” (West Australian, April 10th, 2012). For Christian Porter, member of the Liberal party, the first step must be to “stop the business in residential areas in accordance to the public's wishes” (Western Australia Today, April 5th, 2012), however; he seemed to agree with the idea of financially supporting those who want to leave prostitution. Mary Anne Kenworthy, owner of a brothel, believes that such an amendment would make her job impossible Adèle Carles responded, through the press that her aim “is not to back up owners of prostitution establishments. From my point of view, they are running an industry, whose profits come from exploiting women...” (ABC News, April 5th, 2012). No definitive decision had been made by the end of December.
In Tasmania, in early 2012, authorities initiated a public debate over the possible regulation of the sex industry, opening up to discussion a 30 page document on the “advantages and disadvantages” of different legislative orientations. Between the groups supporting the legalization of prostitution and the abolitionists, dozens of proposals and documents were sent to the Attorney General's office, with each lobby going with its own recommendations. The debate heated up when the union of prostitutes, Scarlet Alliance, attempted to pressure the organizers of a seminar and discussion forum open to the public, to prevent Sheila Jeffreys, Melbourne University professor and CATW Australia speaker to express herself (Tasmanian Times, June 4th, 2012). This incident made headlines. Organizers kept their programming and Sheila Jeffreys did not fail to remind, during her different interventions, that legalization fails to control the sex industry, does not resolve corruption, does not put an end to the violence women undergo in prostitution, and sends a strong signal to organized crime networks that are rapidly investing. For many members of Whistleblowers Tasmania (Australian association against corruption and other frauds), the documents written by authorities are clearly oriented and based on the reports by Licensing Authority Prostitution in Queensland, which is in favor of prostitution regulation, and the management system of licenses granted to prostitution establishments, while roughly condemning the Swedish model. For Isla McGregor, the government seeks to legalize a regulation model (licenses type), a model that was rejected in 2005 through the Sex Industry Offenses Act. Otherwise, the document submitted to discussion does not immediately criticize the regulation model, while the Swedish model is harshly criticized. In contrast, the group Scarlet Alliance delivered a document criticizing both the Swedish and licensing models and promoting the decriminalization of prostitution such as in New South Wales to the authorities.
In Southern Australia, Parliament debated over the decriminalization of prostitution following the amendment proposal submitted by the Labor party deputy Stephanie Key. The result: the vote in favor of decriminalization failed to a close vote, 20 against and 19 for, while eight Parliament members were absent during the deliberations. Key has immediately asked for the bill to be resubmitted to a vote so that all the members of Parliament can vote. In fact, another proposition in favor of decriminalization was submitted to the Upper House in November with the same result.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has also had some legislative setbacks in 2012. A committee elected from the legislative house was put in charge by the local government of examining the law (Prostitution Act 1992) and of reporting on its level of efficiency. If the conclusions generally emphasize a satisfaction with the current system (regulation and licenses for prostitution establishments), and deems that prostitutes are better protected, a member of the Committee clearly distinguishes herself from her colleagues. Vicki Dunne added a 9 page appendix at the end of the report in which she expressed her differences, presenting the Swedish model as an innovative approach centered on women and wrote that: “prostitution is not inevitable” (MTR, March 5th, 2012) The other members of the Committee did not wish to argue these points any further. She adds that all of the campaigns proposed to target the “clients” of prostitutes were postponed and that, overall, the members of the Committee refused to admit the connection between crime and the sex industry, despite recent cases. She has received the support of several abolitionists such as Melissa Farley. Among the report's 17 recommendations, 12 were accepted by the local government, among them, the information documents in multiple languages for prostitutes, and the increase of means for youth prevention. The report also recommended to no longer authorize policemen from obtaining prostitutes' information without a warrant. This proposal was rejected (ACT Government, Media releases, June 5th, 2012).
If Australians remain mostly skeptical to considering prostitution as a human right problem, the abolitionist defenders of the Swedish model have helped to avoid, during 2012, the tilting of three states toward legalization.
Sex industry, human trafficking and organized crime
If testimonies remain as various and contrasted as the judicial approach to prostitution, policemen raids demonstrate that human trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation is overall present in the continent, even in the states and territories which “regulate”, “control” and/or “decriminalize”. As clients are still asking for non-protected intercourse, even in licensed establishments, and managers/owners of these establishments are taking from 40% to 60% of every transaction, the sex industry is still generating immense profits. The association Eros, emblematic representative of “adult entertainment”, estimates the sex industry's profits to just under 1 billion € ($1.4 billion USD) per year and is worried about what the Australian government wants to take away in taxes29. If the state of Victoria estimates about a hundred “legal” brothels, police estimate that there are at least 400 illegal establishments, almost an additional establishment a month since the 1984 decriminalization (International Human Rights Day, December 10th, 2012). Australia's good economic standing attracts traffickers and favors “investments”. In June 2012, if Sydney's municipal authorities had, at first, opposed the construction of Stiletto, an installation project of the largest Australian brothel, open 24/7 with 40 rooms, the court has finally agreed with promoters by approving the project and ignoring the “moral considerations” expressed by opponents. The result: 12 million € ($16.4 million USD) of investment (The Telegraph, June 20th, 2012).
In Queensland and in Western Australia, the “mining boom” attracts networks which “provide Asian prostitutes” to local or foreign workers. Prostitutes, widely originating from South East Asia are, according to the police, sold by their families to traffickers, and “are not, at all, autonomous. There are networks behind them”. (International Business Times, July 10th, 2012) They are threatened and undergoing constant pressure. It is impossible to assess their number, prostitution ads are multiplying in local newspapers. According to an article released in the Brisbane Times on July 10th, 2012, victims were sent from one city to another and do not stay for more than three weeks in the same place. New-Zealand Television (with Reuters) on December 30th, 2012, introduced a study for the government, realized in 2012, which shows that in New South Wales, more than one in two prostitutes (53%) come from Asia (China, Thailand, South Korea). In February 2012, a simultaneous police raid in several Sydney brothels saved three Thai victims that were being detained as “sexual slaves”. They arrived in Australia with student visas, their passports were confiscated. The owner of an establishment, a 42 year old Sino-Cambodian man was charged with human trafficking. The place where the victims were discovered, however, had an “excellent reputation” (The Sydney Morning Herald, February 3rd, 2012). In April, a woman of the same age appeared at court in Canberra for accusations involving slavery and breaches of immigration law. Among the victims, two young Thai women, whose exploiter -presumably forced them into prostitution in order to pay off a debt of 43,000 € ($58,802 USD) - made them accept up to 14 clients a day. The accused kept all of the transactions, such that, the debt was not repaid. (The Canberra Times, April 12th, 2012). The number of Asian prostitutes is steeply rising. There are, in Australia, a thousand prostitutes coming from South Korea. Other estimates indicate that there are one in six on Australian territory (Dokdo South Korean News, May 6th, 2012).
In Kings Cross, a Sydney suburb, illegal brothels are increasing. According to Sabrina Johnson, from the Nordic Model Australia Coalition Collective (NORMAC), there are close to a hundred, for which, “there is no doubt that the increase in supply has followed an increase in demand” (Australian Studies Center, 2012) even though legal establishments would be out of control. New South Wales government has made the same observations and wants to regain control of the establishments' management. Noting a lot of corruption within controllers, too much insecurity and an alarming multiplication of illegal places of prostitution, it wishes to establish new rules on the acquisition of licenses. It also intends to set up a specialized team, in charge of controlling those places which are believed to be violating the law (The Telegraph, August 30th, 2012). If the 2012 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking ranks Australia as one of the countries fighting against human trafficking, it also establishes the existence of trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation. People originating from Thailand, China, South Korea, Malaysia, are the first concern and the networks, often very organized, do not hesitate to use physical force, threaten family members, and blackmail in order to refund the traveling debt. According to the Federal Police, 44 human trafficking cases were conducted in 2012, of which, a third were linked to prostitution. According to the same report, 11 sex trade victims were identified in 2012 by the government and NGOs. Jennie Herrera however, recalls that it is impossible to know today the scale of human trafficking in Australia, but she estimates that the “asianization” of human trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation is a reality that nobody can deny (NORMAC, December 10th, 2012). Since 2003, 320 police operations linked to human trafficking have saved 187 people, among which, 167 were women. Among these women, 151 were forced into prostitution (The Australian, March 12th, 2012).
In general, if there is no uniform approach in Australia, owners of prostitution establishments will remain rather perceived as entrepreneurs. Prostitution is considered a full time practice, especially in states where prostitution has been legalized. This state of mind can be perceived in legislative decisions. Thus in February 2012, the court of Canberra recognized a motel owner who refused to rent out rooms to prostitutes as guilty. The Court ruled that discrimination linked to a person's activities was subject to possible condemnations.
Moreover, authorities and agencies in charge of granting licenses to establishments forget to mention that many brothel owners continue to hire sex victims, with an illegal status, because it is less expensive (The Washington Times, July 3rd, 2012). Not surprisingly, license owners are mostly men who benefit from an “activity” that they do not practice themselves. According to an article in The Conversation from October 1st, 2012, less than 10% of licenses granted in Victoria concerned women. But it does not matter since the taxes earned by the authorities on legal activities report significant sums. In a report from the Tax Office (Australian Studies Center, 2012) one learns that ten legal brothels can earn about 500,000 € ($683,750 USD) for the government's pockets. In an audit conducted for the ACT, it is read that an escorting agency of about one hundred people can make, on average, a little less than 100,000 € ($136,750 USD) a month. In the suburbs of Victoria, the revenue of prostitution would amount to 360 million € ($492.3 million USD) each year. It is then not surprising that government agencies would want their piece of the cake. For Caroline Norma, “liberals, in their speech on sex workers' legitimacy, forget to mention the profits made by the sex industry, procurers, pressures, constraints and violence.”
What can be said on the verdict rendered by the Supreme Court of Tasmania on MP Terry Martin's case. He was caught with: possession of pedopornographical material, “using the services of 162 prostitutes on 506 occasions” of which one was a 12 year old girl, all because of his Parkinson's treatment which would make him sexually hyperactive... Verdict: the member of Parliament must simply leave his office and “seek treatment elsewhere”. The argument of his “huge contribution to the community” has been considered during the hearings. There was another issue on minors, a publicized case, where two sisters, 19 and 22 years old, would prostitute seven other minors to men in their fifties, for a pittance. The two sisters were arrested as well as the clients who were found. One of them was charged with rape.
Lessons to be kept in mind?
As in other countries, it is mostly the illegal sector which appears to benefit from the legislative systems where prostitution has been allowed and/or decriminalized. In the state of Victoria, licenses were granted to establishment owners still on file for corruption or human trafficking. Ideologically, there are two opposing concepts: one promotes the free disposition of one's body and the legitimacy of “sex work”, such as the union Scarlet Alliance, and the other, militates for a responsible approach wishing to help prostitutes and suppress clients, such as the group NORMAC which aims to promote the Swedish model. Australia is divided into two visions without actually deciding. However, the movement in favor of regulating no longer seems omnipotent. The multiplication of human trafficking and corruption cases in regulationist states begins to discourage policies.
- « 1 in 6 prositutes in Australia are reportedly Korean », Dokdo South Korean News, May 6th, 2012.
- « ACT sex industry is better protected under law, ACT Government, Media releases, June 5th, 2012.
- « Australian ‘mega-brothel’ gets go-ahead », The Telegraph, June 20th, 2012.
- « Madam slams proposed brothel legislation », ABC News, April 5th, 2012.
- « Prostitutes, drug-dealers target Australia », Television New Zealand/Reuters, December 30th, 2012.
- « Sex workers trafficked through Queensland mining towns », Brisbane Times, July 10th, 2012.
- Andrews L., « How this sex ledger helped convict ACT brothel madam of ‘slavery’ », The Canberra Times, April 12th, 2012.
- Australian Government Office for Women, Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012–2018, March 2012.
- Australian Human Rights Commission, Exposure Draft Bill Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery Like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012, Australian Human Rights Commission Submission to the Attorney General’s Department, January 20th, 2012.
- Cho S.-Y., Dreher A., Neumayer E., « Does legalized prostitution increase human trafficking? », World Development, Vol. 41, 2012.
- Clennell A., « Premier Barry O’Farrell takes a broom to brothels across NSW », The Telegraph, August 30th, 2012.
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, Annual Report on activities of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia 2012, March 2013.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Donovan, B., Harcourt, C., Egger, S., Watchirs Smith, L., Schneider, K., Kaldor, J.M., Chen, M.Y., Fairley, C.K., Tabrizi, S., The Sex Industry in New South Wales: a Report to the NSW Ministry of Health, Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2012.
- Gallagher B., Taxation and the sex industry, Special Audit National Program Coordinator Australian Taxation Office, 2012.
- Herrera J., Holloway M., MacGregor I., « Scarlet Alliance fails in bid to gag professor », Tasmanian Times, June 4th, 2012.
- Johnson S., Adultery at the Cross, Australian Studies Center, 2012.
- Joudo Larsen J., Renshaw L., « People trafficking in Australia », Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice, Australian Government, Australian Institute of Criminology, n.441, June 2012.
- King R., « Prostitution laws hang in the balance », Western AustraliaToday, April 5th, 2012.
- Mickelwait L., Inquiry into the Exploitation of Women through Trafficking, New South Wales Community Relations Commission For a multicultural NSW, Exodus Cry Submission, August 3rd, 2012.
- Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NORMAC), The Red Light report: Towards a human rights approach to prostitution in Australia, International Human Rights Day, December 10th, 2012.
- Norma C., « Confronting the Australian politics of resignation on prostitution », MTR, March 5th, 2012.
- Olding R., « Tip-off leads to trio of young Thai women who were ‘held as sex slaves’ », The Sydney Morning Herald, February 3rd, 2012.
- Pineda E., « Mining booms spurs flourishing sex trafficking in Queensland », International Business Times, July 10th, 2012.
- Powell A., « Re-opening the prostitution debate: it’s time to make women safer », The Conversation, October 1st, 2012.
- Scarlet Alliance Australian Sex Workers Association, Submission to the Regulation of the Sex Industry in Tasmania Discussion Paper 2012, March 23rd, 2012.
- South Australia House of Assembly, Statutes Amendment (Sex Work Reform) Bill 2012, n. 60, May 31st, 2012.
- Thomas B. « ‘No deals’ on prostitution laws », West Australian, April 10th, 2012.
- Thomas B., « Boost for prostitution reform laws », West Autralian, May 14th, 2012.
- Tyler M. (Dr), Jeffreys S. (Prof.), Rave N., Norma C., Quek K., Main A., Chambers K., Not just harmless fun: the Strip Club industry in Victoria, Coalition Against Trafficking Women Australia, 2010.
- Wightman B. (Hon.), Regulation of the sex industry in Tasmania – Discussion paper, Attorney General, Minister for Justice, 2012.
- Population: 8.4 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 47,226
- Parliamentary system
- Human development index (HDI): 0.895 (ranked 18th out of 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.102 (ranked 14th out of 147 countries)
- Member of the European Union since 1995.
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Legal framework: decriminalization of prostitution (in 1974) - taxation of prostitutes (1983). Access for the latter to social insurance (1998).
- The law of November 1st, 2011 set the practice of prostitution within a legal framework in the capital: it forbids soliciting and limits prostitution to only some districts, mainly around the Prater and Auhof areas so as to keep the practice of prostitution away from residential neighborhoods.
- On June 1st, 2012, the court of Graz overturned its judicial precedents so that prostitutes are allowed to declare their income.
- Legislation of prostitution is unique to each Austrian “land” (territory), hence the government’s clear aim in March 2012 to conciliate the different federal laws.
- Nigerian and Chinese channels appear in massage parlors.
- In 2012, 242 trade victims were identified.
- Construction of the largest brothel in Europe in Vienna’s suburbs, in November 2012.
- Country of transit and destination for human trafficking, especially with the purpose of sexual exploitation.
- 80% of the trafficking victims in Austria are women forced to become prostitutes; they come from Bulgaria, Romania or Hungary and half of them are minors.
Prostitution is more and more present in the Austrian political scene, and yet this issue is not a new one on the leaders’ agendas. Prostitution was no longer penalized as of 1974. In 1983, tax-paying became compulsory for prostitutes and in 1998, they could benefit from social insurance. Nevertheless the law of November 1st, 2011 which set a legal framework for the practice of prostitution entailed a social debate and a deep reflection on the place and rights of prostitutes. However it is still difficult to achieve a synthesis of the situation in Austria, because there are no official figures. In 2012, Elizabeth Tichy-Fissbleger30, a specialist, estimated that 80% of the trade victims in Austria were women forced to become prostitutes, coming from Bulgaria, Romania or Hungary and that half of these persons were minors. But the year 2012 confirms that the number of Nigerian and Chinese channels is increasing through the appearance of massage parlors.
Mixed results after a year’s law on prostitution in Vienna
On November 1st 2011, Austria established a law against soliciting, which limits the practice of prostitution to certain districts, mainly around the Prater and Auhof31. Its main aim was to keep prostitution away from residential neighborhoods.
One year later, the situation shows mixed results. 1,784 fines for illegal prostitution were given to 250 people. 3,039 prostitutes were arrested in residential areas. The increased number of investigations by the police enabled them to give fines to clients and thus contributed to reducing the activities. The law has indeed allowed improvement of the close-by inhabitants’ situation, but the text by itself does not address all the problems.
Whereas one of the aims was to draw prostitution out of the “gray” zone so as to avoid exploitation, violence and abuse, it turned out that women withdrew to venues and apartments illegally, in search of safe places. Most of them work in cars, at the client’s mercy or in a few hotels rented hourly.
Besides, the majority of establishments do not abide by regulations. The law made it compulsory for the brothels’ owners to get a license, the main standards for which were safety and hygiene (a shower, an alarm signal, a distinct entrance, no visibility from outside…). Only 23 venues out of 450 got the license. Yet, according to Sandra Frauenberger, who is the instigator of the law, one of the positive elements is the creation of small establishments run by women. But prostitutes have become less visible and more difficult to approach by social services and associations. Lots of them fear they might become more dependent psychologically and financially (incurring huge debts) on brothel owners. Contact has been lost with about 150 women, Nigerians in particular. The latter were working around the Westbahnof but did not go to the permitted zones.
Since prostitution has been concentrated in two districts, many women have felt the need for a procurer who makes sure, in exchange for money, that no cheaper competitor appears and settles the conflicts between the women. The lack of bathrooms also increases the dependence on a procurer, as the city has not provided proper installations. Thanks to the procurer, they can use the baths of an apartment or go into a bar through an agreement with its owner.
Discussions on the possible improvements of the law dated November 1st, 2011 are still going on
Originally, Viennese people agreed with the principle of the law, but none of them wanted to see her or his district to become a zone of tolerance. The Prater was very quickly jammed, while the Auhof was deserted as it was no longer safe. The bustle around the Prater led the inhabitants to complain about the prostitutes’ soliciting. The latter dared come up to men accompanied by their children or threatened passers-by as soon as they were getting out of the subway. As a result, in Spring 2012, the law was adjusted and the discussion to open prostitution to other districts began. From now on, prostitution around the Prater is only permitted at night, between 10pm to 6am, so that the population may enjoy the day activities of this district without being disturbed. The Auhof is no longer a red zone, for safety reasons. The practice of prostitution at night around the school of economics or in Leopolstadt was discussed, but the project was not achieved because of the protestations from the local and tourism representatives. Consequently, the Prater is the only zone, where prostitution is allowed. Almost 820 complaints for violations against the law on prostitution were registered in as short a period as the summer 2012.
The FPÖ (far right), the ÖVP (conservatives) and the Green party blame the law for being inefficient through hiding prostitutes in the day time and pushing them towards Vienna’s limits at night. On the other hand, the Green party launched a campaign on June 12th 2012, on the occasion of the international day of prostitution which was entitled: « Ich seh, ich seh, was du nicht siehst, und das ist… sexarbeit in Wien » (I see, I see what you don’t see, and it’s… prostitution in Vienna).” This campaign intends to make prostitution a perceptible reality by denouncing breaches of the law in the capital and the low number of safe places for prostitutes. Indeed the campaign’s spokeswoman, Birgit Hebein, compares prostitutes with “balls that district representatives and policy makers throw at each other”.
However, Sandra Frauenberger does not wish to modify the text of the law. A study meant to compare the systems of prostitution in Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria has been ordered by the capital’s politicians; it was being written in 2012.
Towards a new definition of prostitutes’ rights
The court of justice of Gratz modified its case law (jurisprudence) when it allowed prostitutes to declare their income tax. Up to now, the court was against this measure as it judged these contracts to be illegal. The decision was brought about by the complaint from a bar-keeper who had lent money to a prostitute and one of her clients; the debt rose to 12,000 € ($16,503 USD) for the woman and the drinks. The court of first instance had decided that only the money for the drinks was to be paid to the bar-keeper. But on appeal, the court admitted the money lent by the bar-keeper to a client for a prostitute was no longer immune from repayment; so the debt and the prostitute’s income were fully acknowledged.
Austrian associations were gathered for a workshop by the Ministry of Women’s Rights in July 2012; it claimed the next important step to achieve was the end of “lewd outrage,” was with the implementation of regular investigations in brothels and the cancellation of legal costs. Indeed associations consider that, once the prostitutes have signed a contract, they will be protected by the Austrian law. They denounce the important amount of legal duties to fulfill by the prostitutes (income, compulsory registration, legal residence permit, weekly medical examinations…) and the few rights secured for these women. These social rights are all the more important, as 80 to 90% of the prostitutes in Vienna are former immigrants. This figure can be explained by the low number of jobs available to asylum seekers in Austria: prostitution, harvest or seasonal work. The workshop made several propositions in its conclusions: the federal competence should be appealed to in order to regulate prostitution on a higher level, procurers and traffickers should be punished more severely, risky sexual practices should not be publicized…32
The reform of the system seems to be all the more essential as it has been shown that Nigerian rings take advantage of the legal framework of Austrian prostitution and the process of asylum request in order to keep control of their victims33.
The harmonization of the law is at stake: the Carinthie as an example
Each territory (“land” in German) has its own law concerning prostitution. But the national action plan to fight against trafficking, which was adopted by the government34 in March 2012 claimed, as its main goal, the deliberate conciliation of the different federal laws. Laws actually differ a lot from one region to another.
For example, in May 2012, the Carinthie region was planning to take in 100 € ($137 USD) per month and per prostitute (street or parlors) so as to earn 500,000 € ($685,300 USD) a year. This tax was suggested by the Dobernick representative; it was rejected by the town councils and the Women’s Ministry, for reasons of security and equality. Besides this measure would have weakened these women’s already precarious situation and led the police authorities to raise a tax, an unusual activity for them.
Nevertheless, on September 25th 2012, the Carinthie parliament unanimously passed a bill which has much to do with the Viennese example. From now on, the brothels must be placed 300 meters away from schools, kindergarten, sports and entertainment installations, religious buildings, hospitals and barracks. The police will be trained to better prevent the problem and will conduct more severe investigations into the establishments in order to detect abuses and cases of trafficking in human beings.
Such investigations became necessary after two events occurred in the region. The first one: in the course of a raid of a brothel in Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthie, a girl, aged 15, was found. She was a native of Romania and had been abused and ill-treated. Although she owned a health record and was officially registered as a prostitute by the authorities, she had become a victim of the Romanian “loverboys” like her fellow country women who becomes adult prostitutes. These “loverboys,” who had brought her to Austria, acted as burglars while the girls were sexually exploited. They were also under an international arrest order. The owner of the prostitution venue claimed he was innocent and had been cheated. The second event was the suspension of a police officer who formerly worked at the head of the group for the fight against trafficking and clandestine immigration. He is accused of promising prostitutes in an illegal situation that they would not be harassed in exchange for sexual services.
Trans-border operations against human trade
The traffickers who were arrested during the Montana European Operation35 were sentenced in March 2012. Three men and three women were accused of exploiting 31 persons and forcing them into begging and prostitution. The enterprise was a family one. Victims and traffickers were all coming from Montana in Bulgaria, one of the most destitute regions in the country. The guilty parties were sentenced to imprisonment with terms that ranged from 12 months to 4 years. The Austrian associations were critical of the penalty, which they found lenient as compared with the violence of the crimes. In 2012, only 45 traffickers have been prosecuted, about 10 fewer than in 2010. In many cases, there was not enough evidence to allow significant condemnations.
In March 2012, another European raid was led in order to dismantle a Hungarian procuring ring, which operated in Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria. The police of these three countries worked in collaboration to arrest a Hungarian couple who recruited each week women and girls from their country and forced them to become prostitutes along the national roads.
In 2012, the Austrian government identified 242 trade victims, slightly fewer than in the preceding year. The authorities contributed to the creation of a shelter for female victims, which is run by nuns from the NGO Solwodi. This sheltered-housing can receive 8 persons and provides literacy courses, psychological and legal support, medical care and help to return back to Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria or Moldavia.
No institutional help is given to male victims of the trade. The Austrian branch of Amnesty International has denounced the growing threat of victims being forced to return to their country, even when they are willing to testify at their trial.
The largest prostitution venue in Europe
In November, the project of building the largest brothel in Europe in a Vienna neighborhood was announced. Planned for 2014, the “Funmotel” will host 150 prostitutes. About 1,000 clients are expected to come each day. A parking lot for cars and coaches will be available to them while their “privacy” will be protected by a three meter high wall. There will also be a gym, a beauty salon and a restaurant in the building. Gang-bangs, swapping and relations with pornographic stars will be allowed.
Two businessmen, Peter Laskaus and Werner Schmidt are at the origin of the project which will cost 15 million € ($20.6 million USD). They estimate that the “Funmotel” will induce new standards concerning the field of prostitution. Schmidt even compares his project with the commercial transition from local groceries to supermarkets. The site is not yet precisely known; however, the press thinks administrative authorities and the police have already agreed with the project.
Austria is in a paradoxical situation as far as prostitution is concerned, as compared with its European neighbors.
On the one hand, the Viennese law contains strict rules, which regulate prostitution in the capital, for reasons of security and image. This reform is the only one at the time being, but the 2012 events reveal it has inspired other Austrian regions and has become a kind of model in spite of its mixed results. On the other hand, there exists this authorization to build one of the largest prostitution establishments in the EU, intentionally placed near the capital so as to lure international clients, and self-named “sex supermarket.” The political addresses to this project are rather soft (Sandra Frauenberger is delighted that women will be “practicing in safer conditions”!).
It will be interesting to follow the on-coming development of the situation in Austria. Indeed, whereas countries, such as Germany or the Netherlands where prostitution in large venues is very much developed, seem to be learning toward a more restrictive approach, Austria seems to adopt another view.
- « Ein Jahr Wiener Prostitutionsgesetz», Die Standard, November 2nd, 2012.
- « Prostituierte können Lohn einklagen », Die Standard, June 1st, 2012.
- « Sittenwidrigkeit soll fallen », Die Standard, July 3rd, 2012.
- « Wiener Prostitutionsgesetz: Keine Novelle nötig », Die Presse, May 25th, 2012.
- Aichinger P., « Geld für Sex ist nicht mehr sittenwidrig », Die Presse, June 1st, 2012.
- Blei B., « Prostitution drängt Frauen weiter in die Illegalität », Die Standard, May 3rd, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Stöger K., « Illegale Prostitution Lage eskaliert », Die Presse, September 6th, 2012.
- Population: 10.8 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 43,413
- Federal government - Constitutional monarchy
- Human development index (HDI): 0.897 (17th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.098 (12th rank among 147 countries)
- Founding Member of the European Union since 1952.
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- 23,000 prostitutes according to the police report (Official site of Joelle Milquet, December 4th, 2012); between 15,000 and 20,000 prostitutes according to Tampep in 2009.
- 15,000 prostitutes, of which 5,000 are in Brussels (Espace P).
- 4,000 to 5,000 prostitutes in Brussels, a third of which are men (L’avenir, November 16th, 2012)
- Abolitionist regime since 1948, confirmed in 1965.
- Regulationist components in municipal policies.
- The law of April 13th, 1995 (article 380) represses the organizational forms of prostitution (procuring, managing institutions of prostitution, soliciting).
- Human trafficking is set by the 5th and 9th paragraphs of article 433 of the Penal Code.
- The law of August 10th, 2005 modified various provisions, and reinforced the fight against trafficking, specifically human trafficking.
- Essentially a destination and transit country for trade victims.
- Main countries of origin: Bulgaria, Romania, Nigeria, China, Morocco, and Albania.
In Belgium, the legislative situation remains paradoxical. Although the country is still officially abolitionist, certain components of prostitution are largely organized and governed in towns. The debates surrounding prostitution continue and the solutions are imperfect –still trying to find the least bad. While waiting, this paradoxical legislation has been partially accepted and institutionalized at the level of the authorities (differences at the local and national level), which opens the door to abuses. The discrete traffickers survey and “supply” the “labor,” often with the knowledge of the authorities. While complaints of sexual exploitation have in fact decreased, victims are present, often outside the normal field of view and the situation remains half accepted, half-fought, not without reinforcement of trivialization of the sex market.
Prostitution: social issues or electoral issue?
In December of 2012, 8 senators from the Mouvement Reformateur (MR)36 filed a bill to "renforcer la lutte contre l'exploitation sexuelle, à réglementer la prostitution et à humaniser les conditions de service (strengthen the fight against sexual exploitation, and to regulate prostitution and to provide humane conditions of service)” (Belgian Senate, February 6th, 2013). While in the first review of the Swedish model, which would according to them, increase health risks and lead to isolation of prostitutes, they presented in their proposal, a series of measures to regulate prostitution under conditions to create an "statut social independent, (independent social status)" and to help prostitutes curb practices that are deemed non-compliant. The text also provides extended communal power, which must define the boundaries and schedules of the practices. This independent status would be obtained from a National Council for the Fight against Sexual Exploitation, composed of a civil society that are involved in prostitution-related issues and representatives of local authorities, after the prostitutes are registered. The status would guarantee, according to the authors of the bill, the "conditions d’exercice” (conditions of practice)" that agree with the legislation. The law would also grant the right to give "habilitation (clearances)" to salons and would ensure that the "tenanciers (tenants)" receive neither "profit anormal (abnormal profits)," abnormal services, or excessive rents (RTL, December 13th, 2012). Using the term “prestataires de services sexuels (providers of sexual services)” to speak of prostitutes, the senators, at the origins of their bill, also provide administrative retaliation for any difference in the rules of the common. These measures are particularly aimed for owners of salons. Though the press is talking about this in context of strengthening the fight against trafficking in women, the draft law proposed by the eight senators of MR cleverly never used that word in the ten items on display.
The Belgian context remains quite particular. The country officially became abolitionist under the suppression of the law on regulation in 1948. Since then the ratification in 1965 of the Convention of December 2nd, 1949 for the suppression of trafficking and the prostitution of others, confirmed this option. But, although prostitution is legal today, the exploitation is forbidden and is not considered an official profession. A number of brothels, known by the authorities, are “tolerated,” with full knowledge of the facts.
Legal, forbidden, tolerated, and regulated: in total, each arranges with the "legal limbo." The arbitrariness prevails. For Sophie Jekeler, director of the Foundation Samilia which fights against human trafficking, there are still “de nombreuses composantes réglementaristes dans les politiques communales (…) L'approche belge résulte davantage d'un savant compromis entre pragmatisme et dogmatisme (many regulationist components in municipal policies (...) The Belgian approach is more the result of a clever compromise between pragmatism and dogmatism)” (Education Santé, May 2012). For Espace P, an association that fights for a society where prostitution would be allowed, “cette proposition de loi ne fait qu'officialiser la situation actuelle (this bill merely formalizes the current situation)" (La Dernière Heure, December 14th, 2012). The police and the social workers are not optimistic about the willingness of people to register if this proposal were to be accepted.
The debate between abolition and regulation continues. Politics are extremely rushed, especially in the local level. Difficult to see clearly in between the real convictions of some and the electoral posters of others. When it comes to handling the demands of prostitutes, to fight against exploitation, crime and discontent among residents who are sometimes very virulent, finding a compromise is a perilous exercise. Thus, in the 2012 election of Saint-Josse, a neighboring municipality of Brussels that has a northern district that is very concerned about prostitution, all candidates spoke on the subject. The socialist, Emir Kir declared that “la prostitution crée beaucoup de nuisances pour les habitants ainsi que de l'insécurité (prostitution created many inconveniences for the residents as well as insecurities).”Although the common voted on this matter in June 2011, a rule (Administration communale de Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode, June 29th, 2011), intended to limit the number of “carrée” (windows in houses with prostitutes behind them)37, was just put into place this summer. Reportedly, there are 102 rooms like this today (Le Soir, September 18th, 2012). The Secretary of State of Brussels for Social Action has also spoken of the management of prostitution on the Antwerp model of Villa Tinto, a place regulated and built of fifty windows as previously described with social support in a "secure environment.” Celine Fremault, of the Centre Droit Humaniste (CdH, Center Right Humanists) of Brussels, strongly criticized this position by saying that prostitution was one of the "dernières forms de violences faites aux femmes (last forms of violence against women)" and refused to legitimize a "état prostitueur (state prostitute)” (L’Avenir, November 16th, 2012) with this type of project. Her colleague, Eric Jassin, another local candidate, does not share this opinion. He hopes to decrease the number of persons, but does not formally oppose a project like that of Villa Tinto in Saint-Josse. The ecological candidate, Zoé Génot, is not against prostitution, but she wants to “contrôler les carrées (control the buildings with windows for prostitutes),” while the candidate of the Blues, GeoffroyClerckx believes that "la prostitution n’est pas gérée (prostitution is not managed)" and that " les riverains sont oubliés” (residents are forgotten) (Le Soir, September 18th, 2012).
Belgium also hosted a large gathering of abolitionist NGOs on December 4th, 2012. Milquet, vice Prime Minister and Minister of Interior and Equal Opportunities, participated in the Conference of European Women's Lobby (EWL) on "10 years of policies on prostitution," which was held at European Parliament. He has clearly demonstrated his abolitionist position and recalls today "d’après les rapports de police, en Belgique, on estime le nombre de prostituées à 23 000. Parmi celles-ci, 80% (soit 18 500 prostituées) seraient victimes de traite et une majorité des autres d’exploitation sexuelle" (According to police reports, in Belgium, the estimated number of prositutes is 23,000. Of these, 80% (or 18,500 prostitutes) are victims of trafficking and the majority of the others are victims of sexual exploitation” (Official site of Joelle Milquet, September 30th, 2013). Finally, the hesitation between abolitionism and regulationism can be found at all levels of decision-making from national to local. For the authorities, like for the politicians, the position face to face to prostitution and its inclusion in society is more acrobatics orchestrated between repression, tolerance, organization, and rejection of a global vision.
Prostitution of the road, of windows, and of residents: a difficult equation
In Brussels, the Alhambra quarter focused their attention on prostitution in 2012. In May, Mayor Freddy Thielemans (PS) wrote on his Facebook page: " La prostitution et son lot de nuisances n'ont plus leur place à Bruxelles et encore moins dans le quartier Alhambra dont la rénovation par les autorités publiques se termine (Prostitution and its share of pollution have no place in Brussels and even less in the Alhambra neighborhood, whose renovations by public authorities are finishing).38" A true discourse for “exasperated residents.” In June, the city published a decree (Arrêté communal de la ville de Bruxelles, 2011), having seen a deterioration of their area, largely due to the development of prostitution that was in conflict with the function of housing. Entered into force in May, the order defines a new regulation defining a large area within which any prostitution activity is excluded from the public sphere. This prohibition also includes activities related to prostitution, particularly motorists soliciting prostitutes. It establishes an administrative fine of up to 250 € ($335 USD) for anyone who violates the provisions of this regulation. This text has certainly caused opponents to react. For Marion Lemesre (MR), "ce n'est qu'une petite réforme pré-électorale, qui ne résoudra pas les problèmes de ‘réseaux d'exploitation d'êtres humains’, et ne fera que déplacer la prostitution dans un autre quartier" (it is only a small pre-electoral reform, which will not solve the problems of ‘networks of exploitation of human beings’, and will only move prostitution to another district) (Thielemans, June 4th, 2012). For Marion Lemesre, Antwerp is an example to follow: "STOP Antwerp regulation is clear: street prostitution is forbidden in the entire territory." While some 1,600 prostitutes are active in the area, an initial report in mid- September already mentioned 42 administrative fines between July 15th and September 15th, including 452 against motorists identified by their registration number (Le Soir, September 24th, 2012). Nonetheless, very few prostitutes were punished. In September, the association Espace P and several prostitutes tried to oppose the new regulation on an appeal to the Council of State. Punishing customers and soliciting is not within the competence of commons. For the mayor, however, the new law is a success because prostitution "has decreased by 30% in the area since the introduction of sanctions" (Le Vif, September 4th, 2012).
A little further north, in Schaerbeek, is the problem of Aarschotstreet, another place where prostitution is seen as "a degradation of the quality of life" of a neighborhood. A new police regulation on prostitution in windows was introduced in late 2011 (Commune de Shaerbeek, June 2011). It limits the exploitation of prostitution establishments to certain areas, allows only one operator per address, and a prostitute must be in control. To keep a room, one must be in possession of a "Certificate of Compliance" from the College of Mayor and Aldermen. The operator must have a clean criminal record. Violators are subject to administrative fines, the minimum was set at 200 € ($268 USD). Six clients filed a number of appeals to the Council of State, which were all rejected (La Dernière Heure, March 26th, 2012). Reportedly, there are still a little less than a hundred rooms showcasing prostitution in the area.
If the goal of authorities is to fight against the sexual exploitation linked to prostitution, why use such a high property tax? On Aarschot street, “a 30 m2 (322 sq ft) room reports 1,000 € ($1,340 USD) for property tax” (Le Soir, July 30th, 2012). Equally challenging, to see this regulation as a tool in the fight against trafficking while on the same street, "one finds 90% of Bulgarians and Romanians” (La Dernière Heure, February 29th, 2012).
The Antwerp experience of Villa Tinto, former center of commerce transformed into aisles with windows for a prostitution mall, has many followers, especially in the political world (several local elected officials are for a similar project in their community) and with several associations. But it also has its detractors. In the analysis of "the establishment of resorts dedicated to prostitution," the Commission CEPESS led by Céline Fremault, the authors note, in terms of Villa Tinto, that the system is "inefficace dans la lute contre la traite des êtres humains" (ineffective in the fight against trafficking in human beings). They believe that traffickers are still operating, and that they have become more adept at leaving much of the money earned to prostitutes. They add that " presque toutes les personnes prostituées sont contrôlées par un proxénète. La ville est au courant de leur présence" (almost all prostitutes are controlled by procurers. The city is aware of their presence).
In Ghent, a new regulation was implemented on October 1st. Solicitation, the "spot light" and "provocative attitudes" are now punishable by a fine of 120 € ($160 USD). However, the mayor defends prostitution, "une ville comme Gand a besoin de prostituées. Mais elles doivent obéir à des règles (a city like Ghent needs prostitutes. But they must obey the rules)" (Libération, September, 24th 2012). Meanwhile, police multiply controls in the pink area. During an operation which involved dozens of police in June, the police made several "administrative arrests." They found that nearly 200 people came to Ghent, from northern France, to "visit some addresses of prostitution" (Le Soir, June 24th, 2012). Several hundred French sex tourists would in fact go every weekend to the bars in the city.
In Charleroi, an urban renewal plan has resulted in a shift of prostitutes since August 2011, which was not without causing some tensions of local residents. The municipal authorities have made three proposals for the relocation of prostitutes; one envisages the creation of an "eros center" in Charleroi. Politics, residents, associations, and prostitutes do not find common ground, each feeling aggrieved by the proposals of others. We see how difficult local officials are trying to "channel" prostitution on their territory without really succeeding.
However, complaints of sexual exploitation have decreased since 2010. From 653 complaints in 2010, only 471 complaints were filed in in 2011. Under the growing weight of taxes, rents and prostitution windows, prostitutes will be "folded" to massage parlors and hotel rooms. For the association Payoke, there was no decrease, but "une partie de la prostitution disparaît purement et simplement des radars (part of the prostitution simply disappears from under the radar)" (L'Express.be, July 30th, 2012). With each new measurement, prostitution adapts and the sex industry reaps.
Working in dirty sheets
Obviously, how could we forget the "Dodo Brine" case as the press and even television have made and continue to make their bread and butter, but beyond this high level of media coverage, symbolizes the evil of an organized system, which arrives at self-justification in the exploitation of prostitutes. The trial began in March 2012 at the Criminal Court of Tournai, with Dominique Alderweireld (“Dodo”) and seven other defendants for a wide case of pandering. One learns during the debates that Dodo had eight schools, in which young women were recruited through advertisements, but forced to declare themselves "independent". The story does not look like that of a procurer. At the bar among the accomplices, one finds three men and women, but none of the victims, who provided information in the present hearing, even though dozens of them were "employed" in institutions in question (bars and massage parlors). Nothing surprising about that. For Yves Charpenel, president of the Fondation Scelles, "les personnes prostituées déposent puis disparaissent (the prostitutes deposit and then disappear)," often overtaken by the pressure or fear of reprisals, making it difficult for investigators to characterize the facts of trafficking and procuring. The deputy prosecutor Master Algo has mentioned during the trial of "faits de sequestration et d'intimidation à l'égard des filles (acts of kidnapping and intimidation against girls)" (Le Soir, March 16th 2012) to prevent them from testifying. To the Office Central pour la Répression contre la Traite des Etres Humains (OCRTEH), there is no possible doubt that, "les personnes prostituées qu'il enrôle sont presque toutes roumaines, placées en Europe par des mafieux roumains (the prostitutes that he enlisted are almost all from Romanian, placed in Europe by Romanian mafia)" (Le Nouvel Observateur, March 15th, 2012). This is one reason, among others, why Dodo had to respond to allegations of "keeping house of prostitution or debauchery," "prostitution," and "pandering", which he found himself accused for 2000 -2009. His main line of defense, widely heard in the media, was to claim persecution of a man. "Pourquoi moi? (Why me?)" Repeated the accused, "alors que cette “activité” est largement répandue” (the ‘activity’ is already largely spread). “Pourquoi il devrait être accusé pour la tenue de maison de débauche alors qu'il existe plus de 3 500 établissements similaires en Belgique” (Why should he be indicted for keeping brothel while there are more than 3,500 similar establishments in Belgium?) added Mr. Wery, his lawyer (Le Point, March 1st, 2012 ). The prosecution, beyond a man and his accomplices, has focused its argument to remove the "Dodo system," an exploitation of prostitution with authors of "criminal association" (recruitment, "meter reading," and pressure monitoring) and victims (several dozen) who explained to police, that they have been abused. Some people declared themselves "independent,” others were administratively listed as "part time sports masseuses” (Le Nouvel Observateur, March 15th, 2012), but the establishment takes around half of the earnings of prostitutes. Profitable for Dodo and his accomplices: 630,000 € ($847,000 USD) in annual sales. In the indictments, his lawyers asked how they could blame their client "of having organized its activity if it is considered that it is tolerated?" (Nord Eclair, March 23rd, 2012) and called for an acquittal. Bottom line, Dominique Alderweireld was sentenced to five years prison sentence for procuring and organized crime. The press had mixed results, which the court did consider, as they were embarrassed by the defense’s arguments. However, the court did not hesitate to confiscate revenue activities Dodo and his accomplices earned: 4.2 million € ($5.6 million USD), 2.7 of Dodo’s assets will be foreclosed on (Le Nouvel Observateur, June 21st, 2012). A powerful symbol.
Trafficking and exploitation: Gains and pains
Belgium is considered a country of destination and transit for its geographic position for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking mentioned Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Nigeria, and China as the main countries of origin of victims in Belgium. The 2013 report of GRETA adds Morocco to this list for 2012. On the site for the European Union, one can also read that most of the criminal groups of simply trafficking through organized networks come from Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Nigeria, and Brazil. Certain Belgian women are prostituted in Luxembourg. In 2012, 190 suspects of trafficking for prostitution were investigated (50% of those investigated were for suspicions of trafficking), 48 were found guilty and condemned to prison terms of 5 years. On the ground, many cases are related through the press. For example, in February, a man and three Nigerian women were condemned to prison sentences between one to six years and fines from 2,750 € ($3,696 USD) to 5,500 € ($7,393 USD) for trafficking in human beings and prostitution with threats to the victims. Four of the victims testified and helped to dismantle this network of people who also operated in Turkey, Norway, Denmark and Spain. The victims were lured to Europe with false promises of jobs or studies. Nigerian networks have even established "victim exchange programs” (European Commission). For Yves Charpenel, we are faced with "un marché qui s'accroît et se complexifie(…) C'est d'abord une affaire d'argent (a market that is growing and becoming more complex(...) This is primarily a matter of money)” (La Libre Belgique, October 25th, 2012).
The networks of traffickers are becoming very adaptive. Once a victim is suspected of being involved in a case or a police investigation, the networks take her to a neighboring country, and so on. In Liège, in September, the court condemned three Bulgarian procurers who prostituted a dozen young women, including a minor 15 years old. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to six years for acts of trafficking, defilement, violence, and threats. The young women had a minimum quota of customers every day. They were continuously monitored by the traffickers, who had rented an apartment in front of the sidewalk, where they were forced to wait for their customers. In October, a 39 year-old Albanian procurer was sentenced to eight years in prison for prostituting young Belarusian and Lithuanian women.
Belgium has taken important steps in the fight against human trafficking and victim assistance has grown steadily since the 90s, as mentioned in the report of GRETA. Inter-departmental coordination with representatives of ministries and public agencies concerned with these issues is responsible for implementing the second national action plan against trafficking for the period 2012-2014. The Center for Equal Opportunities and the Fight against Racism evaluates the entire system. There are three specialized centers for the victims that offer a full range of assistance ranging from accommodation to legal support. 185 new adults were assisted in these three structures in 2012. NGOs have been widely associated with different resources and several associations have been praised by the GRETA report for their contribution to the fight against human trafficking in Belgium.
- « À Gand, les prostituées sommées de se rhabiller », Libération, September 24th, 2012.
- « Affaire du Carlton: prison avec sursis pour le proxénète "Dodo la Saumure" », Le Nouvel Observateur, June 21st, 2012.
- « Dodo la Saumure comparaît devant la justice belge », Le Point/AFP, March 1st, 2012.
- « La proposition de loi officialise une situation déjà existante », La Dernière Heure, December 14th, 2012.
- « Les avocats de Dodo la Saumure plaident pour son acquittement », Nord Eclair, March 23rd, 2012.
- « Prostitution à Bruxelles : l’enthousiasme de Kir pour la Villa Tinto n’est pas partagé », L'avenir, November 16th, 2012.
- « Prostitution de rue : plus de 500 PV dressés dans le quartier Alhambra », Le Soir, September 24th, 2012.
- « Prostitution: 225 amendes pour nuisances dans le quartier de l'Alhambra », Le Vif, September 4th, 2012.
- « Prostitution: le MR veut en finir avec "la tolérance et le laxisme" en Belgique », RTL, December 13th, 2012.
- « Règlement de police relatif à la prostitution en vitrine », Commune de Shaerbeek, June 2011.
- « Vaste opération de police dans le quartier rose de Gand », Le Soir, June 24th, 2012.
- «‘Une Europe libérée de la prostitution’... Maintenant ! », Fondation Scelles Infos, n. 19-20, December 2012.
- Ben N., « 15.000 personnes se prostituent en Belgique », La Dernière Heure, February 29th, 2012.
- Biolley (de) I., Loeckx P., Serrokh N., Frémault C. (Présidée par), La mise en place de complexes hôteliers dédiés à la prostitution – Analyse, Rapport de la Commission Cepess, Collection « CEPESS », December 2011.
- Cangelosi M., « Les prostituées ne sont pas toujours prêtes à porter plainte », Le Soir, July 30th, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Defraigne C., Tilmans D., Brotchi J., Decker (de) A., Deprez G., Courtois A., Miller R., Bellot F., Proposition de loi visant à renforcer la lutte contre l’exploitation sexuelle, à réglementer la prostitution et à humaniser ses conditions d’exercice, Belgian Senate, 2012-2013 Session, Legislative document, n.5/1960/1, February 6th, 2013.
- Demannez J. (Bourgmestre-Président), Nève P. (Secrétaire communal), Règlement de police relatif à la prostitution en vitrine – Extraits du registre aux délibérations du Conseil Communal, Municipal administration of Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode, Meeting of June 29th, 2011, 29.06.2011/A/002, June 29th, 2011.
- Dupont G., « Les prostituées devront se plier », La Dernière Heure, March 26th, 2012.
- Durieux S., « L’autre visage de Dodo », Le Soir, March 16th, 2012.
- GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings), Council of Europe, Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Belgium, First evaluation round, GRETA(2013)14, Strasbourg, September 25th, 2013.
- Hovine A., « Prostitution forcée : petits risques, très gros profits », Lalibre.be, October 25th, 2012.
- Lefebvre A., « La prostitution en Belgique se déplace-t-elle vers des lieux plus 'cachés'? », L’Express.be, July 30th, 2012.
- Leva C., Villain M., « Interdire ou organiser la prostitution – 1ère partie – Idées reçues et réalités du phénomène », Education Santé, n.278, May 2012.
- Lhuillier V., « La prostitution, vitrine pour candidats », Le Soir, September 18th, 2012.
- Milquet J., « 80 % des prostituées seraient victimes d’exploitation », Official website of Joëlle Milquet, December 4th, 2012.
- Milquet J., « Se remobiliser contre l’exploitation sexuelle d’autrui », Official website of Joëlle Milquet, Press release, September 30th, 2013.
- Règlement de police relatif à la prostitution en vitrine, Municipal law of the City of Brussels, 2011.
- Thielemans F. (Bourgmestre-Président), Règlement de lutte contre la prostitution de rue dans le quartier Alhambra – discussions, Municipal Council in Brussels on June 4th, 2012, Conseil communal de Bruxelles du 4 juin 2012, pp. 5-11 (French and Flemish).
- Thielemans F. (Bourgmestre-Président), Symoens L. (Secrétaire de la Ville), Règlement de lutte contre la prostitution de rue dans le quartier Alhambra, Ville de Bruxelles – Arrêté du Conseil du 4 juin 2012, Organisation Service juridique et Secrétariat des Assemblées, Service juridique Réf. Farde e-Assemblées : 1732199, Conseil du 04/06/2012, June 4th, 2012.
- Toscer O., « Les vrais réseaux de Dodo la Saumure », Le Nouvel Observateur, March 15th, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2012.
- European Commission, Fight against Human trafficking website, Belgium file: http://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/showNIPsection.action?country=Belgium
- Population: 198.4 million
- GPA per capita (in US dollars): 11,340
- Presidential regime with a federal organization
- Human development index (HDI): 0.730 (85th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.447 (84th rank among 147 countries)
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- As a result of the Brazilian legislation in 2012, prostitution is decriminalized and considered as a “professional activity” by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, provided it is practiced by consenting and independent adults.
- Country of origin, transit, and destination.
Brazil, the land of hospitality and tourism, but also equally recognized among the most dangerous countries in the world, is concerned with the negative influence that international events, such as World Youth Day, World Cup, or the Olympic Games, could have for sex tourism. According to a study by Professor Miguel Fontes, National Consultant Social Service of Industry (SESI)39, the crime rate related to sexual exploitation can be largely determined by the poverty of the population and the importance of leisure tourism.
The head of special security for large events of the Ministry of Justice published in January of 2012 his “Planejamento estratégico de segurança para a copa do mundo FIFA Brasil 2014 (Strategic plan of security for the World Cup FIFA 2014).” Among the mentioned objectives, one finds the prevention of prostitution, the represssion of violence and of general criminal activity, sex tourism, and in particular child prostituion. The more specific institutions in charge of this mission will be the secretariat of human rights, the federal traffick police, and the civil police.
At the global level, according to the UN’s report on child exploitation, Brazil is the country the most affected by child exploitation in South America and the second most affected in the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Brazilian woman are among the main victims of human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation. Young celibate girls, between 18 and 21 years of age, who have little education are the main targets of international trafficking networks rampant in the country.
In Brazil, the number of cases of the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents is not diminishing. In 2012, one counted more than 1,000 cities affected by the sexual exploitation of minors, which represents about 20% of Brazilian cities.
Complaints of violations of human rights to the "Disk 100," specialized telephone service created in 2003 and managed by the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic, grew 77% in 2012 compared to 2011. This statistic does not necessarily indicate that violence grew in the country, but rather that violations of human rights are emerging out of silence. Between January and March of 2012, the “Disk 100” already counted 4,205 complaints of sexual violence. Salvador, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are the most affected cities, for both sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Most complaints are then forwarded to the Prosecutor, so that he can exercise his power of criminal punishment.
Geographically, the regions the most affected are the northeast, the center-west, and then the north. A mapping of crystalization points of sexual exploitation faciliates locating, for the period of 2011-2012, 1,776 zones at risk, of which more than one third have already been diagnosed as being in the “critical stage”40. The work of the Secretary of Human Rights of the Presidency and the Republic, in collaboration with the federal police and the Minister of Justice, is focused on the sensitive zones, such as the federal highways, where human trafficking for sexual exploitation could happen. For the same period of 2011 through most of 2012, the federal police saved at least 663 children and adolescants from risky situations.
In 2012, the region Norte (north) of the state Amazonas, the Federal Public Ministry launched an investigation following complaints about the network of sexual exploitation of native children and adolescents, in the city of Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira, located more than 800 km from Manaus.
The typical profile of victims of sexual exploitation characterizes discrimination of gender, of age, of ethinicity, and of social class. Also, the victims are mostly young girls of black skin or a native from a poor social class and of a low educational level.
Analysis of regions of risky zones for sexual exploitation of children and adolescent
Source: Mapeamento dos Pontos Vulneráveis à Exploração Sexual de Crianças e Adolescentes nas Rodovias Federais Brasileiras 2011-2012 (Disque direitos humanos 100), Childhood Brasil, Organização Internacional do Trabalho, Polícia Rodoviária Federal, Secretaria de Direitos Humanos da Presidência da República, 2012.
The different forum of sexual exploitation and prostitution
Sexual exploitation and prostitution has always had a particular platform in Brazil: the streets of the country’s major cities. However, the streets are not only forums for sordid "activities": they have also captured the internet.
On one side, the prostitution and sexual exploitation in the streets is not diminishing, and figures still show that the largest number of complaints and cases are in major capital cities of the most developed states. On the other hand, the Internet is now used not only as a "forum," but also as a way to structure networks to traffick people. Also, in 2012, the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents was able to count nearly 450 commercial sites related to exploitation, pedophilia and pornography of children and adolescents41. Most of the sites are hosted in other counties, which renders investigations and prosecutions particularly complicated.
In regards to the government, who is equally involved in the prevention and prosecution of sexual exploitation crimes, the Minister of Tourism could, after having surveyed more than 2,000 tourism internet sites in Brazil that contain sexual references, obtain the withdrawal of such content. After a study by ASCOM-Embratur, 1,100 sites were modified in 2012.
Another aspect is the globalization of the network. Indeed, Brazil is at the same time a country of origin, transit, and destination of sexual trafficking victims. This is the world’s second largest home to sex tourism, after Thailand. Sex tourists come mainly from Europe and the United States. On Brazilian territory, victims are also foreign persons, especially Paraguayans.
Abroad, Brazilian women, men and transgender are victims of trafficking, mainly in the countries of Western Europe, but also in more distant countries such as Japan. The victims, whose profile is once again one of the unmarried girl of lower social level, are essentially "recruited" by other women. The network itself is managed mostly by men.
A study in October 2012 by the Ministry of Justice, conducted with the Secretaria Nacional da Justiça brasileira (SNJ, National Secretariat of the Brazilian Justice), UNODC and the governments of several other countries, revealed that between 2005 and 2011, at least 337 people were forced to leave Brazil by physical force or breach of trust and forced into prostitution. The main destination countries were Switzerland (127 victims), Spain (104 victims) and the Netherlands (71 victims).
In 2012, among judicial affairs relating to international networks of sexual exploitation, one must remember that on December 6 in Bordeaux (France), a couple of procurers were sentenced to three years in prison for having organized the prostitution of thirteen young Brazilian girls whose papers had been confiscated. They were recruited by Brazilian residents in Spain.
Awareness campaigns are regularly scheduled throughout the country and abroad to prevent sex tourism. The "Don’t Look Away campaign!” was launched with ECPAT (NGO fighting against child sexual exploitation) in 2012 and will be continued in 2013 in twenty countries. It aims to prevent sex tourism during the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013, the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and the Olympics in 2016.
As a result of the Brazilian legislation in 2012, prostitution is decriminalized and considered a “professional activity” by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, provided it is exercised by willing and independent adults. However, in criminal law, prostitutes have the status of victim, and encouraging or forcing others into prostitution is illegal. Also, procurers and all others involved in brothels (managers of customers and of the prostitutes) are liable to prosecution.
Bill 5 (Projeto lei PL 4211) presented on July 12th, 2012 by MP Jean Wyllys aims to regulate the activity of prostitutes. This project aims to legalize prostitution with a goal of legal, social, and monetary protection of prostitutes. It is based on a distinction between voluntary prostitution and being paid, and sexual exploitation, defined as "the total appropriation or more than 50% of revenues by a third party, the non-payment of sexual service, forcing someone to engage in prostitution under threat or violence," which is still suppressed. The bill has sparked political and societal debates, particularly focused on whether legalization, instead, will be an obstacle to sexual exploitation in Brazil.
There is another legislative change to note, but experts are not convinced of its effectiveness. This legislative change is increasing the penalty for those who submit children or adolescents to sexual exploitation. The program coordinator of the NGO Childhood Brazil, based on the experience of more stringent legislation, believes that this measure will not have the effect of reducing the crimes.
In June of 2012, the Comissão de Constituição e Justiça (Commission of Constitution and Justice) of the Senate approved the bill (Projeto Lei do Senado 495) amending the Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente (Statute of the Child and Adolescent). This project increases the penalty for prostitution or sexual exploitation of minors, spending a minimum of 4 to 6 years and a maximum of 10 to 12 years imprisonned. The project also involves a longer prison sentence incurred by those who facilitated or encouraged the exploitation of minors on the Internet. The owner or manager of premises used for such crimes will be prosecuted.
Finally, the Brazilian Penal Code suffers from various shortcomings highlighted regularly. In 2012, the crime of “slave labor” was particularly discussed. While the Brazilian Penal Code criminalizes "slave labor", it does not specifically mention sexual exploitation as one of its variants. The Comissão Nacional para a Erradicação do Trabalho Escravo (CONATRAE, National Commission for the Eradication of Slavery) focused on the question of a possible recognition of sexual exploitation as "slave labor." This legislative change should come in 2013.
The evolution of the law should continue, thanks to the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents. The objective of the Commission is to propose policy to curb the major problem of sexual exploitation in Brazil. It will also work with the recent Parliamentary Comission of Inquiry on Human Trafficking in Brazil.
The Brazilian judicial system, making progress on some points, still faces many problems that prevent effective prosecution. No reliable statistics from trials exist to determine the percentage of successful convictions.
On trial for human trafficking, according to a study in 2012 of the Conselho Nacional de Justiça (CNJ, National Council of Justice), between 2005 and 2012, a total of 1,163 trials were initiated for human trafficking, of which 428 are still underway in 2013. This study by the National Council of Justice follows the Report on Human Trafficking developed by the National Secretariat of Justice of the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with UNODC has revealed the existence of 475 victims of trafficking in Brazil, between 2005 and 2011.
In regards to the sexual abuse of children or adolescents, it seems that in many of the cases resulting in a conviction, the taking of evidence and testimony is particularly delicate. In addition, the victim remains precarious in many places.
Among the major obstacles facing justice, it is first necessary to mention the difficulty of gathering evidence and sufficient witnesses in contexts of omerta, corruption, the ignorance of rights, and human distress. But we must also emphasize the importance of threats made directly to the judges who try to get involved in the investigation of these crimes. According to the National Council of Justice in 2012, 150 judges in Brazil received to death threats.
Sexual exploitation is condemned by the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), therefore the judges of the courts of labor law are competent to judge the compensation of victims of child sexual exploitation. This mechanism allowed, at the end of 2012, Judge Aldemiro Dantas (Parintins) to order five people involved in a case of pandering of minors to compensate victims for an aggregate of 600,000 BRL (about $270,000 USD), even though the criminal proceedings had failed due to a lack of sufficient evidence42.
As sexual exploitation has international character, judicial cooperation should be one of the main objectives of public policy.
Mobilization is too messy and deserves greater cooperation. The action of public policy must be conducted in an integrated manner between ministries, state governments and municipalities of the country. It is essential to overcome the lack of preventive measures and assistance to victims.
- « MTuridentifica na web usoequivocado de marcas institucionais », Assessoria de Comunicação da Embratur (ASCOM), Ministério do Turismo, March 27th, 2012.
- Câmara dos Deputados, Projeto de lei PL 4.211, de 2012 regulamenta a atividade dos profissionais do sexo, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- ECPAT, Coupe des Confédérations 2013 et Coupe du Monde de football 2014 contre l’exploitation sexuelle des enfants dans le tourisme, Presse Release, International seminar « Evénements sportifs et protection de l’enfance », June 10th, 2013.
- Fontes M., Turismo e Exploração Sexual de Crianças e Adolescentes: um Estudo dos seus Fatores Determinantes, SESI Conselho Nacional, 2012.
- Mapeamento dos Pontos Vulneráveis à Exploração Sexual de Crianças e Adolescentes nas Rodovias Federais Brasileiras 2011-2012 (Disque direitos humanos 100), Childhood Brasil, Organização Internacional do Trabalho, Polícia Rodoviária Federal, Secretaria de Direitos Humanos da Presidência da República, 2012.
- Planejamento estratégico de segurança para a copa do mundo FIFA Brasil 2014, Ministério da Justiça, Secretaria extraordinária de segurança para grandes eventos, January 2012.
- Senado Federal, Projeto de Lei do Senado 495, de 2011, Altera a Lei nº 8.069, de 13 de julho de 1990, que dispõe sobre o Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente e a Lei nº 11.771, de 17 de setembro de 2008, que dispõe sobre a Política Nacional de Turismo, para ampliar o combate à exploração sexual de crianças e adolescentes, 2011.
- Population: 7.4 million
- GDP per capita (in US Dollars): 6 986
- Unicameral parliamentary regime
- Human development index (HDI): 0.782 (57th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.219 (38th rank among 147 countries)
- Member of the European Union since 2007.
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Prostitution located overall in tourist neighbourhoods, seaside stations and highways.
- No specific legislation on prostitution, sanctioned as an immoral activity; criminalisation of procuring and of establishments of prostitution.
- The use of trafficking services is criminalised by article 159c of the Penal Code.
- Country of origin, progressively less of transit and of destination for human trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation.
- The Roma community, select target of human trafficking.
Bulgaria is one of the main origin countries for trafficking victims with sexual purposes. Two factors can account for this situation: Bulgaria’s geographic position and economic situation. Bulgaria is in the South-East part of Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula and borders on Turkey, Greece, Romania, as well as Serbia and Macedonia. That is why it constitutes as a compulsory passage in and out for all kinds of traffics, particularly in relation with sexual exploitation, towards Western Europe. The economic situation is very difficult, with a rather low standard of living: the average salary is one of the lowest in Europe, about 290 BGN ($203 USD - 148 €). After the fall of the communist regime, the shift from the communist model to free trade has been harsh, particularly in terms of employment (Z Magazine, June 2012). Whereas everybody had a job under the communist regime, this situation of full employment ended under the capitalistic model and unemployment has increased. Since the 1996/97 crisis, Bulgaria passed under the supervision of the IMF. The persistent economic crisis and the search for jobs to survive are some of the many factors which allow the luring of girls through offers of fake jobs.
Women’s work in Bulgaria is also indicative of their vulnerability to become trade victims. Two cultural trends have a strong impact on Bulgarian women’s condition: patriarchal domination and the related norms on the one hand and emancipation from communism on the other hand. Women work, but patriarchal norms still command their social position and relationships (TAMPEP, 2007). These factors stimulate human trafficking.
An ill-definite framework for the prostitution system
In 2012, 24 persons practicing prostitution and two procurers were arrested by the Bulgarian police in Sunny Beach, a sea resort in the Bougas province (Novinite, August 16th 2012). Prostitution occurs mainly in tourist neighborhoods, sea resorts and highways. Bulgarian prostitution, be it within the country or outside, is one of the most developed in Europe. According to Tihomir Bezlov, a researcher at the Research Centre on Democracy who has specialized in the analysis of crime and corruption, the profits brought in by the exploitation of Bulgarian women are estimated to be between 900 million and 1.8 billion € ($1.2 billion and $2.46 billion USD) per year or between 3.6% and 7.2% of the Bulgarian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (7sur7, December 12th 2007).
The phenomenon is increasing thanks to the legal treatment of prostitution. In truth, the prostitute status is relatively unclear as it is neither prohibited nor regulated by any explicitly focused law. The Bulgarian Penal Code mentions prostitution only when it constitutes another offence like, for instance, rape or drug administering (art. 155 of the Bulgarian code). Procuring as well as prostitution venues are forbidden; but the legislation does not suppress these actions under their legal name but on the grounds of lewd and vicious practices. It shows some persistent influence by communism on the laws in force. In August 2006, article 155 of the Penal Code was amended so that, today, there is a distinction between drug-related procuring (between 10 and 20 year imprisonment) and procuring without the use of drugs (minimal penalty of 3 years, instead of the 10 provided previously). The use of drugs is then an aggravating circumstance which causes the procuring-related penalty to increase from 3 to 20 years. While procuring is the real serious element and should be suppressed as such, the use of drugs predominates. This amendment allowed one of the most famous traffickers to be released after a 3 year imprisonment, which is a disgrace considering the seriousness his actions (AEDH, 2007).
Prostitution enjoys a kind of “limited legality” insofar as the prostitutes are not liable to penal proceedings because of their activities. Nevertheless they may be sentenced on grounds of offences of “lewd and vicious practices” even though the latter are not well defined by Bulgarian laws. So the prostitutes, who mainly work in the street, are subject to the arbitrary police force whereas the ones who are in venues are rarely questioned.
The absence of a clear status for prostitution led some politicians to consider legalizing prostitution in 2007. The government went back over this declaration as this solution would only result in reinforcing procurers’ activities. Legalization would be an incentive for the trade and fuel demand since it would legitimate it and enhance its value (Prostitution et Société, January 2008). The government does not want the country to become an official destination for sex tourism; it is said to be fully aware of the risk and has started to think over some other options, including the Swedish model (The New York Times, October 5th 2007).
Links between show-business, corruption and prostitution
The development of prostitution in this country has given it the reputation of a hub for sex tourism. Most clients, if not all of them, are foreigners. Thanks to soaring prostitution in the street as well as in venues, a new trend has appeared at the end of the year 2011. Some politicians and business-men are said to enjoy paid sexual services from certain models, chalga 43singers or even former “Misses”. Katrin Vacheva, who is a Bulgarian top model, has revealed in a talk-show that it is a common practice: a beauty queen, a model or a singer may earn between 30,000 and 40,000 BGN ($21,000 and 28,000 USD - 15,360 and 20,500 €) each month in exchange for sexual services. These women are said to have their picture in a magazine for well-off men, business-men, bankers or politicians so as to help them make their choice. “When you become Miss Bulgaria or win some other pageant, your price goes up, and you become desired by higher-class gentlemen” (Novinite, July 14th 2010). The reverse phenomenon may also happen. Some young women, who wish to become escort-girls, begin a career as a model in order to meet wealthy clients. These covers make organized rings’ activity all the easier as the procurer takes on the manager’s figure. All legal proceedings on the ground of sexual exploitation are in vain as it is difficult to report any piece of evidence.
Moreover the politic body seems to be highly in the grips of procurer networks, particularly in terms of benefits. Services are more expensive and benefits may be increased through blackmailing. In July 2012, an important prostitution ring was dismantled. After gathering compromising information on politicians as clients, the procurers are reported to have used them in order to extort important amounts of money from them (Novinite, July 8th 2012). Prostitutes have also probably been used to corrupt civil servants. Corruption is sometimes so general among the political and justice authorities of the Bulgarian State that the European Commission has decided to freeze the funds meant for this government.
A widespread phenomenon: human trafficking
Prostitution is one of the most profitable activities in Bulgaria according to a study published in April 2012 by the Research Centre on Democracy (24 Heures, April 2012). The prostitution of Bulgarian women working outside the country brings more money than the one inside the country. It amounts to 1.46 billion € ($1.99 billion USD) per year. Human trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation, which has been initiated by Bulgarian networks, is unfortunately increasing in considerable proportions compared to the amount of money handled by the sex industry. However, these rings operate more and more often in countries where laws are more permissive, usually in those where prostitution is regulated such as Germany or the Netherlands; they do not have to worry about possible legal proceedings for their activities. They also operate from Bulgaria: they send women to Europe where the latter are controlled by former prostitutes and consequently escape from the police in the destination country.
The “recruiting methods” are the same by all prostitution rings. In general, they include promises of fake jobs abroad, seduction tricks on the part of the so-called Loverboys, fixed in advance marriages and, to a lesser extent, abductions. The Bulgarian Code was amended in 2002 so that it integrates the offence of human trade, in compliance with the 2000 Palermo Convention. Yet the effective implementation of the law is still limited as the number of proceedings against persons accused of trafficking has decreased and investigations concerning collusion cases among policemen are relatively negligible. In this regard, according to the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, in 2012 police authorities started 121 inquiries founded on the offence of trade whereas only 91 people were prosecuted for this charge by justice authorities. Bulgaria proved willful in terms of fight against trafficking. Following the recommendations by the Group of Experts on the Fight against Human Trafficking (GRETA), in 2009, the country criminalized the use of services provided by the trade in the 159c article of the Penal Code. Nevertheless we cannot help but note that such an amendment has no impact on the fight against human trade since, to be applicable, it requires that the prostitute should be identified as a trade victim, which is far from being the case.
In 2012, a worrying increase of human trafficking was recorded, originating particularly from the Balkan States; it included notably the sexual exploitation of minors according to the special representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Maria-Grazia Giammarinaro (Le Monde, November 9th 2012). More and more minors are exploited by rings due to their vulnerable situation; hence multiple prevention measures are engaged by the government to make people aware of the phenomenon. Since 2008, the National Commission for the Fight against Human Trafficking (CNLT) has launched awareness campaigns intended to take place on European Day of the Fight against the Trade. Besides, in collaboration with the national Agency for the Child’s Protection, the Education Ministry and several NGO, this commission has developed informational media on the theme “Human Trafficking: it is time to act” (GRETA, 2011), which have been publicized throughout the country and focused towards students and teachers in over 3000 schools. The great number of minors who are lured by the hope of “a better life” in a foreign country accounts for these measures of prevention: they are mainly intended to make school children and students aware of the trade risks.
The Roma population: a target population for human trade
The Roma community, particularly women and children, is subject to the trade with purposes of sexual exploitation and represents a significant number of identified trade victims. The exploitation of this minority’s vulnerability can be explained by social exclusion, not to say a complete marginalization from the Bulgarian society, which leads a certain number of the community’s members to enter prostitution. In general, their family is at the origin of this decision, because it needs to be supported financially. Through its own illegal immigration channels, which are often connected with criminal organizations, specialized in trafficking for sexual purposes, the community sends girls to Western Europe to make them as prostitutes; some of them are well aware of what is to happen. In 2012, according to a European journalist, the Stoliponovo district in Plovdiv probably concentrates the largest number of members belonging to the Roma community in the Balkans. Prostitution is sometimes the only means of survival for certain members of this community in the poorest country of the UE where 84% of its members are under the poverty line. They have very few opportunities to find a way out; education and professional chances are quite limited because of their marginalization. 150,000 children are forsaken each year in Bulgaria as their parents cannot provide for their elementary needs any more. They are placed in orphanages and, as a target for traffickers, they often end in prostitution. Women who have been recruited by these networks have to pay a debt; it is never entirely paid back because procurers grasp at any and all opportunities to make the prostitutes pay for extra costs. An organization including police women and former prostitutes provides aid to women practicing prostitution and urges them to give up this activity. It also helps victims who decide to bear witness against their procurers in trade-related trials (TAMPEP, 2007). It should be noted that this organization is more concerned about personal plans than about official programs. Action and financial means are limited. In 2012, Norway initiated a unique cooperation with Bulgaria and the European Council, which was intended to help the Roma community. The relevant measures deal with justice, particularly the fight against human trafficking and organized crime.
Indeed Bulgaria is one of the prominent countries for human trafficking, but it strives to invest itself as much as possible in the fight against that plague. Nevertheless prevention measures are aimed at the general population rather than at specific and the most vulnerable groups. For instance, prevention actions in the face of trade risks are usually achieved in large cities and rarely in neighborhoods inhabited by the members of the Roma community (GRETA, 2011). Except for the Varna town council, which conducts a prevention program there, the other cities cannot afford recruiting Roma members in order to train them in the prevention and awareness fields.
Enhanced international cooperation against human trafficking
In these last few years, Bulgaria has made the fight against human trafficking one of its national priorities due to the number of Bulgarian trade victims; it also wished to comply with its international commitments. According to the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, the government financed several seminars in 2012; over 180 state policemen, judges and prosecutors attended them with the aim of making the fight against trafficking and the relevant international cooperation more efficient.
Bulgaria is currently at the head of the operational cooperation within the EU through the interaction of national institutions, international mechanisms and the implementation of the main priorities recommended by the European Directive on the Fight against the Trade. In 2012, the Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, organized a conference on women’s trade and prostitution where politicians and experts met NGO representatives in order to speak about politics, policies and other practices meant to fight against the prostitution phenomenon.
Besides, coordination and cooperation measures among police services prove to be of paramount importance, particularly because of the international characteristic of the procurer networks. In effect, their activities seldom remain limited to an only country. Young Bulgarian women are usually sent to Western Europe to practice prostitution; they may also be managed by a procurer network of a different origin from theirs, which makes the investigators’ task all the more difficult.
The coordination between inquiries and information has the advantage of centralizing the obtained data and of accelerating, in a way, the treatment of the case by the police. For example, some coordination occurred in Bonn (Germany) between the German police and the Bulgarian authorities concerning the dismantling in that city of human trafficking with sexual purposes during the year 2012. All the questioned prostitutes were coming from Dobrich in Bulgaria; thanks to policemen from the regional police direction and the Dobrich Court (parquet), victims spoke so as to bring down the network that exploited them (BNR Radio Bulgarie, February 8th 2012).
The Bulgarian government is aware of this serious situation and initiates efforts to fight the trade at its origin by developing suppressive measures in compliance with its international commitments; it also fights the trade through mechanisms of protection for trafficking victims. In 2012, the Bulgarian State allocated $59,300 USD (46,000 €) to the building of two shelters for victims of trade with sexual purposes, but some more efforts are needed. In order to increase the efficiency of the fight against trafficking, Bulgaria should take firmer legal proceedings against civil servants who were party to trade cases; it should also make clearer charges concerning prostitution in the Penal Code. In addition to the penal mechanisms for witnesses’ protection and the creation of host shelters, the government should focus more on the victims’ identification, particularly those from the Roma community, and on the awareness of the dangers from the trade.
- « Alleged prostitution ring busted in Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach », Novinite, August 16th, 2012.
- « Bulgarian Interior Min: Prostitution ring was used to blackmail politicians», Novinite, July 8th, 2012.
- « Bulgaria-practicing the oldest profession in Germany », Deutsche Welle, May 25th, 2012.
- « Bulgarie : machine arrière sur la légalisation », Prostitution et Société, January 2008.
- « Hausse inquiétante de la traite d’êtres humains en Europe », Le Monde, November 9th, 2012.
- « La prostitution bulgare est l’une des plus développées d’Europe », 7 sur 7, December 12th, 2007.
- « La prostitution, un secteur très lucrative en Bulgarie », 24 Heures, April 3rd, 2012.
- « Top Bulgarian models, singers said to make money as prostitutes », Novinite, July 14th, 2010.
- Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme (AEDH), La traite des femmes à des fins d’exploitation sexuelle. Le cas de la Bulgarie, Action et Concertation contre le Trafic et l’Esclavage sexuel (ACTES), June 2007.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- European Network for HIV/STI Prevention and Health Promotion among Migrant Sex Workers, Bulgaria National Report on HIV and Sex work, February 2007.
- GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings), Council of Europe, Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Bulgaria, First evaluation round, GRETA(2011)19, Strasbourg, December 14th, 2011.
- Kulish N., « Bulgaria moves away from legalizing prostitution », The New York Times, October 5th, 2007.
- Philipps S., « Bulgaria Traffic in Women », Z Magazine, June 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
-Vladokova V., « Succès de la police bulgare et allemande contre la traite des blanches », BNR Radio Bulgarie, February 8th, 2012.
- Trussel Trust (The) – Bulgaria projects : http://www.trusselltrust.org/bulgaria-projects
- Population: 48.7 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): NA
- Civil government since March 30th, 2011, mainly composed of the old military regime which governed the country since 1962.
- Human development index (HDI): 0.498 (149th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.437 (79th rank among 147 countries)
- Member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since 1997.
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- There are more than 10,000 prostitutes in the city of Rangoon.
- Prohibitionist regime (Suppression of Prostitution Act 1949).
- The law amending the Suppression of Prostitution Act 1949 of 1998 enlarged the definition of a brothel to include all places where prostitution takes place.
- Homosexuality is forbidden under section 377 of the Penal Code.
- Country of origin for trade victims heading towards China, Thailand, and Malaysia.
According to the 2012 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, Burma is a country of origin for victims for human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. According to the estimations of the Burmese government, throughout the last five years, 80% of trafficking victims were forcibly married in China (mostly in the Yunnan province), whereas the other 20% were forced into prostitution in Thailand, and a small portion in Malaysia (The Myanmar Times¸ January 7th, 2013).
The most vulnerable Southeast Asian population
The humanitarian situation in Burma is extremely worrying. Fighting between the Burmese army and armed ethnic groups still rages on in some borders. The ethnic groups are demanding more autonomy in a Union of Burma, who suffers from a serious imbalance since the Burmese State prevails over all other states. In the context of internal armed conflict, human rights violations such as forced labor, recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, the use of anti-personnel mines, and land dispossession, are commonly committed by the regular army and the ethnic armed groups against ethnic minorities in particular. In addition, decades of internal conflict resulted in thousands of deaths, large flows of refugees to neighboring countries and internally displaced persons, 450,000 according to the latest estimates from United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who live in camps where conditions are often more than worrisome, because, among other things, the low presence of foreign humanitarian actors on the ground. Indeed, foreign humanitarians are routinely denied access to victims by the authorities for alleged security reasons (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, 2013).
Adding to this very worrying humanitarian situation, extreme poverty due to decades of questionable economic policy persists. Under the military dictatorship, the budget allocated to defense was oversized in relation to gross domestic product (GDP) of the country: more than 50%! In contrast, only 0.8% of GDP was spent on health and 1.8% on education (Righting Wrongs, May 2012). The illegal economy (smuggling, counterfeiting, opium and methamphetamines...) is used in particular to fund the militarization of the conflict parties, which is equivalent or superior to the licit economy. Drug addiction is therefore widespread in regions, for example, such as the Shan State in the northeastern Burma, which is also one of the Burmese States the most affected by trafficking. NGO reports reveal how drug production can have devastating effects on the population, with intoxicated men unable to provide for their homes and selling all their possessions, or their own children, for the sole purpose of obtaining drugs (Burmese Women Union, 2012). This is when women must earn enough money to support their families. But with a level of education lower, since men's education is a priority over that of women in Burma, they are easily deceived by the attractive jobs that traffickers offer. Moreover, the already extreme economic precariousness of populations has increased following the passage of Cyclone Nargis in 2008. A number of people gathered in abject poverty (loss of employment, housing, identification, etc.) fuels internal trafficking flows to the big cities of the country and external trafficking to neighboring countries (Righting Wrongs, May 2012).
All these elements combined with discriminatory government measures against ethnic minorities are causing mass migration to neighboring countries and are factors of vulnerability to trafficking of these people looking for a minimum of economic prosperity and peace.
An environmental region conducive to trafficking
Aside from the multiple factors of vulnerability that were previously explained, there are also a number of elements that facilitate trafficking of Burmese: the permeability of borders with China and Thailand (two countries undergoing rapid economic growth, unlike Burma, which remains one of the least developed countries in the region), the membership of Burma Great Mekong Sub-region where commercial sexual exploitation has an important dimension (UNODC, 2013), and the cultural proximity, physiognomic and linguistic minorities with the Burmese people from neighboring countries who facilitate trade and meet the expectations of clients and potential husbands (Righting Wrongs, May 2012).
Trafficking takes an even greater demand in Burma, than in other destination countries. In China, the demand comes from the imbalance of male to female ratio resulting from the one-child policy and "femicide" abortions (PWO, 2011). In addition, Burmese women are particularly prized by Chinese farmers, because the amounts to be paid to the intermediary are much lower than they would pay for the dowry of a Chinese wife. Testimonies of victims indicate that potential buyers shop in private homes or sometimes in markets to make their choice. Medical examinations are also conducted to ensure that victims are able to give birth. In Thailand, where the sex industry is highly developed, women and girls from Burma meet the demand for cheap and easily exploitable prostitutes (KWAT, 2008). Their situation is even more precarious than that of Thai prostitutes, because they not only perform an illegal activity, but in addition, they are often in a foreign situation. Therefore, they live in constant fear of being arrested by the police and enjoy no protection.
Efforts of the Burmese government: exaggerated or a reality?
In 2011, due to internal political changes that have occurred in Burma, the country has moved to tier 2 in the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking. The main argument for the positive developments in the classification focus on the efforts made by the new Burmese government to fight against the use of forced labor and against the recruitment of child soldiers by the Burmese army. However, with regard to human trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, progress, if it even exists, is slim. The report emphasizes the creation of an anti-trafficking website, a dedicated victim assistance funds, and a national hotline (U.S. Department of State, 2012). The U.S. government is not insensitive to these efforts, and in November 2012, a joint plan as a framework for joint action by the two countries in the fight against trafficking has been established. This plan includes, among other things, the opening of a regular dialogue specifically on trafficking with the holding of workshops throughout the year, and technical assistance and training provided by the U.S. government formations. In addition, on December 12th, 2012, the Thein Sein government launched a new action plan to combat trafficking from 2012 to 2016. On this occasion, and for the first time in Burma, they held the International Day against Child Trafficking (Mizzima, December 15th, 2012). On December 16th, 2012, a concert was held in Rangoon by MTV Exit (End Exploitation and Trafficking) in cooperation with the Burmese government, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and other NGOs, in order to raise awareness of trafficking (The Guardian, December 24th, 2012 ). Parallel to the reinforced U.S. cooperation, the Burmese government has pledged to cooperate with international organizations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) or the ASEAN and national NGOs working on subject. Also note that in March 2004, Burma ratified the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol commonly known as the "Palermo Protocol" and in September 2005, it adopted a comprehensive national law specifically aimed at combating trafficking in human beings. In view of texts, Burma could appear as a "model pupil" in the fight against trafficking and to suggest that the situation will improve significantly. But in reality, it is clear that government efforts remain without impact, at least if we are to believe the reports of grassroots organizations and some miscellaneous facts related by the Burmese press in 2012. Indeed, the Burmese NGOs emphasize the lack of protection and assistance to victims of trafficking, both internal and external to the government (KWAT, 2008) - with the exception of a reintegration program of two weeks (Righting Wrongs, May 2012) - contrary to the provisions of the 2005 law. Victims are often arrested for prostitution and sent to rehabilitation centers44. They, themselves, are sometimes accused of trafficking. Regarding lawsuits, progress has been slow. Even though the Anti-Trafficking Act 2005 provides for penalties of imprisonment ranging from ten years to life (Righting Wrongs, May 2012), in reality, traffickers often escape prosecution by paying bribes, kickbacks from police officers and/or justice. Some may be effectively prosecuted, but on other charges. In addition, state officials have not suffered any arrests, prosecution, or imprisonment for their complicity with the traffickers. During 2012, women from the Rohingya community were abducted in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine State, by Burmese officials. They were used as sex slaves in military bases (U.S. Department of State, 2013). Corruption is widespread at all levels of society and affects the fight against trafficking. In 2012, in Myeik District, near the Thai border, a group of students filed a complaint against the village chief for trying to exploit twenty people from his own village. Two months later, authorities still had yet not responded, demonstrating the climate of impunity in Burma (Mizzima, October 26th, 2012). In early 2012, a young woman of 17 years complained to the ILO after being forced into prostitution by family members. Asked about the reason for her choice to the call the ILO rather than the Burmese police, she expressed her lack of confidence in the Burmese justice and questioned the ability and willingness of the government to provide assistance victims (Democratic Voice of Burma, February 28th, 2012). Finally, the main shortcomings of the actions undertaken by the government are not addressing the vulnerabilities of people trafficked mentioned above, continuing to pursue policies that discriminate against ethnic minorities, and feeding flows voluntary to emigration. More generally, one sees how unlikely it is that the number of victims of trafficking could decrease significantly, as the fighting will take place in border areas and a solution to the minority issue that plagues the country will not be found.
In the absence of tangible proof of the sincerity and willingness of the regime to fight against trafficking effectively, one can assume that it strives primarily to improve its image on the international scene.
Worrying growth of prostitution in major Burmese cities
Although prostitution is illegal in Burma, one estimates more than 10,000 prostitutes in the city of Rangoon (Democratic Voice of Burma, December 24th, 2012). The sex industry seems to be expanding since the cyclone Nargis in 2008. Like other countries in the region, the places where prostitution takes place are diverse: massage parlors, karaoke bars, dance clubs… (Mizzima¸ July 3rd, 2012). Prostitutes are required to pay bribes to police to turn a blind eye to their illegal activity. If they refuse to pay or they do not have the means, they may be arrested, imprisoned and sometimes detained in rehabilitation centers. The client, meanwhile, is not penalized. Violent behavior towards prostitutes is common, and many clients refuse to use condoms. It is estimated that in Burma, one prostitute in three is infected with the AIDS virus (Democratic Voice of Burma, December 24th, 2012). With approximately 216,000 people infected, the rate of HIV infection and AIDS in Burma is one of the highest in Asia (UNAIDS, 2012). Thein Sein's government is attempting to curb prostitution by prohibitions and restrictions on massage parlors, hotels, and housing brothels in Rangoon and Naypyidaw, the new capital (Mizzima, July 3rd, 2012). However, the impact of these measures on the prostitution phenomenon remains to be established.
Finally, in recent years, there has been a development of the tourism sector. According to government estimates, tourism revenues have been doubled since 2008. It is thus feared that sex tourism is developing in parallel, similar to what happened in Thailand or Cambodia. Moreover, in 2012, a small number of foreign pedophiles reportedly went to Burma to sexually exploit minors (The New York Times, April 10th, 2012).
Violations of human rights in Burma are systematic, and the state is guilty by negligence to condemn officials involved. In such a context, it seems natural to have doubts about the sincerity of the government’s fight against commercial sexual exploitation. Resolving the ethnic issue and the establishment of peace will be a prerequisite to the establishment of the rule of law in Burma. Nevertheless, the democratic transition is still in its infancy, because it is a process that takes time. With the support of the international community, we can reasonably expect future improvements in respect of human rights in general and the fight against commercial sexual exploitation in particular.
- « Decent incomes can stem prostitution: gov’t editorial », Mizzima, July 3rd, 2012.
- Burmese Women Union, Forgotten Workforce. Experiences of women migrants from Burma in Ruili, China, 2012.
- Chan K., « Human trafficking complaint filed against village head », Mizzima, October 26th, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Hindstrom H., « Sex workers clamour for rights in a changing Burma », Democratic Voice of Burma, December 24th, 2012.
- Hodal K., « Duped women fight back as Burma gets to grips with human trafficking », The Guardian, December 24th, 2012.
- Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), Eastward Bound - An update on migration and trafficking of Kachin women on the China-Burma border, August, 2008.
- Klein C., College D., « Slaves of Sex : Human Trafficking in Myanmar and the Greater Mekong Region », Righting Wrongs, a Journal of Human Rights, Volume 2, Issue 2, May, 2012.
- McDonald M., « Burmese are wary of tourism’s dark side », The New York Times, April 10th, 2012.
- Noreen N., « Teenager ‘tortured, forced into sex trade », Democratic Voice of Burma, February 28th, 2012.
- Office of the Spokesperson, Washington, DC, United States-Myanmar Joint Plan on Trafficking in Persons, November 18th, 2012.
- ONUSida, Global Aids Response Progress Report Myanmar - Reporting period: janaury2010-December 2011, National AIDS Programme, March 31st, 2012.
- Palaung Women’s Organisation (PWO), Stolen Lives. Human trafficking from Palung Areas to China, June 2011.
- Thazin M., « About 20 children trafficked per month across Thai-Burmese border », Mizzima, December 15th, 2012.
- Theobald K., Ooi H.H., « The Wa State, Burma », The National Strategy Forum Review, Volume 20, Issue 3, Summer 2011.
- U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, April, 2013.
- U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2006 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, March, 2007.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2013.
- United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), Office of United Nations Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, SIREN human trafficking data sheet: Myanmar, March, 2009.
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Transnational Organized Crime in East Asia and the Pacific – A threat assessment, April, 2013.
- Woman and Child Rights Project (WCRP), Human Rights Foundation of Monland, Nowhere else to go. An examination of sexual trafficking and related human rights abuses in Southern Burma, August, 2009.
- BurmaCampaign UK : http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/burma/
- Collection des traités des Nations Unies : http://treaties.un.org/home.aspx
- OCHA : http://www.unocha.org/roap/about-us/about-ocha-roap/myanmar
- Transparency International : http://www.transparency.org/
- Population: 14.5 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 946
- Constitutional monarchy
- Human development index (HDI): 0.543 (138th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.473 (95th rank among 147 countries)
- Member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since 1999.
- About 100,000 prostitutes.
- 65,000 children prostitutes of which, 20,000 are in Phnom Penh.
- Prostitution has been illegal since The Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in 2008. Procuring is illegal, owning or running brothels is prohibited.
- Numerous prostitution centers in the big urban and touristic centers: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Koh Kong.
- Major destination for sex tourism together with Thaïland and the Philippines.
- Point of origin, destination and transit for trade victims in South East Asia.
- Cambodian and Vietnamese victims.
Following the civil war and the Khmer Rouge genocide, which massacred a quarter of the country’s population, Cambodian society was heavily scarred. Nowadays, with more than half of its population under 18, Cambodia has transformed into a young and developing country open to tourism. Yet, with a largely rural population, most people do not benefit from this increase in economic activity, and live in extreme poverty. Henceforth, the sex industry has become a plague to the Cambodian Kingdom, with NGO estimates placing the number of prostitutes near 100,000, mostly in Phnom Penh. Scarcely involved in the situation, lenient or inactive authorities make the situation worse.
The weight of history
In less than 30 years, Cambodia has become one of the main centers for sex in Asia, competing with Thailand, the largest hotspot today, and with the Philippines. A growing social and economic trend, it all started by the early 1990’s. After years of civil war, a UN Peace mission was left behind in order to supervise elections after the fall of the Khmer Regime. From then on, the country opened its borders to the world and greeted an important number of NGO members, international civil servants, expatriates, tourists, and wealthy potential customers, all of whom were profitable sources for the country. When UN troops first came into the country, estimates of the number of prostitutes stood around 1,000. According to today’s figures, the sex trade generates well over $500 million USD annually.
Sexual trafficking within Cambodia intensified at increasingly cheaper rates, following new and repressive politics in Thailand that hardened sentences for criminals involved in sexual exploitation. Free lance prostitutes working in bars and clubs reserved to Western travelers, brothel-bars, karaoke bars, and massage parlors are well appreciated in Asia: the sex industry takes all forms as it expands throughout Cambodia.
Whether a choice or a necessity, prostitution is the result of duress
The problem of prostitution in Cambodia is twofold. On one side of the problem, Cambodia faces an increasing demand for sexual services. On the other, a large section of the population considers the activity to be a source of income. Given that the country’s Human Poverty Index (HPI) stands near 30%, with half of the population living on less than $1 USD per day, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Until recently, most jobs and income opportunities originated from the textile industry. The country’s low-cost labor – costing roughly $0.35 USD per hour, one of the world's cheapest rates – induced firms such as Wal-Mart, Nike, and Target, to invest in Cambodia. These firms came into the country as part of a clothing industry that provides almost 90% of export revenue. Yet, with $61 USD (47 €) in monthly salaries, scare opportunities for career advancement, difficult working conditions, and high hierarchical pressure, the textile industry has become unattractive to younger people, forcing numerous young women into prostitution. A 2009 UN interagency evaluation of human trafficking showed that 20% of women who work in the textile industry, and who had been dismissed due to the economic crisis, moved into the sexual service industry. In relation to factory work, providing sexual services allowed young women to work in better conditions and earn a higher income. Per month, these women can earn between $60 and $70 USD (46 to 55 €), not including tips or commissions, which can triple the basic amount.
A relatively tempting situation when compared to factory work, this cost-benefit analysis forced the hand of 20% of women working in textiles to choose this activity. A single sexual act can go for $5 USD (3,8 €) while a whole night could cost between $40 and $100 USD (31 to 77 €), whether with a freelance prostitute working in a cheap place or a karaoke bar hostess. Hostesses can rent themselves for a night or even for a holiday’s duration, caricaturing female sex objects. And, as in all similar markets, there is a rate for local costumers and a special rate for tourists.
Even though it may appear to be a willing and consensual choice, prostitution is practiced under conditions of duress: 55% sell their bodies due to difficult family circumstances and 3.5% lured into it, trapped or sold. Within the country’s economic and social environment, turning to prostitution as a means of survival occurs frequently. Within economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, families are often pushed into selling their own children for very low price. "In Cambodia, a child is worth less than a dog", declares Patrick Roux, the founder of the NGO AVEC (Aide volontaire aux enfants du Cambodge - Voluntary Aid to the Children of Cambodia). The sale of young, virgin girls remains a widespread issue, although the 2008 law made buying one more difficult, according to Somaly Mam. Beyond the possibility of increased physical or psychological pleasure, the client might believe superstitions and myths which link sex with a virgin to luck, whitened skin, lengthened life duration or a cure for AIDS. Due to the prevalence of such absurd beliefs, buying the virginity of a young girl can cost the client up to $4,000 USD (3,110 €).
The market for child pornography remains relatively large, which accounts for the high number of kidnapped children. In June 2011, the UN Committee for Children's Rights presented an appalling report according to which thousands of children were sexually exploited or submitted to sexual violence and pornography in prostitution networks all over Cambodia.
Who are the victims of prostitution?
Cambodia is a country of origin, transit and destination of women and children for human trafficking and sexual exploitation. According to a report put together by a number of NGOs in Cambodia, Vietnamese and Khmers children and young adults are the main victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Interviewed by Sisyphe, S. Mam declared that according to Save the Children Fund over a third of sex workers in Cambodia are under 18 years old. The 2012 figures show that sexual trafficking victims are mostly girls, occasionally boys, between the ages of 3 and 17. Sexually exploited victims are slightly older but are, by and large, young adults between 18 and 25. A simple statement shows that child victims are slightly older when recruited, since "it's a high risk to sell minors in trading centers in Phnom Penh.” The laws are strongly enforced, brothels are closed down and offenders arrested more often, declared the director of International Justice Mission Cambodia, a Human Rights Defender NGO. Once they reaching the age of 25, young women are considered too old to attract clients and are thrown back to streets.
Three distinct profiles appear when we begin to analyze the prostitute population: those without education or steady income, who come from disadvantaged rural areas, those who live with their parents, surrounded by close family, who sell their bodies to help those around them, and finally those sexually exploited by their employers. In the last two cases, between 75% and 85% of the children in question have attended some form of standardized education or are still in the educational system. Although unable to fully protect children against sexual exploitation, schools can serve as an important starting point for government and NGOs prevention programs aiming to reduce the number of children turning to prostitution.
Different 2012 reports point out that, lacking a means to support themselves or their families, the idea of consent on the part of children is nothing more than a false choice between destitution and prostitution.
How does prostitution work in Cambodia?
By and large, Cambodia remains a rural country with only a few middle-sized or large towns. Taking into account geographical location, sexual exploitation is situated in places where wealthy nationals, western expatriates and tourists spend their time. The cities most affected are Phom Penh, the capital of the country, Siem Reap, a historical site, Sihanoukville, and Koh Kong on the southeast coast.
One out of every two men who travel alone through Cambodia is estimated to have sex with a young prostitute. The question which comes next is clear. Who are these men? In reality, these men are hard to define by category. They could be anyone, and it has nothing to do with the cliché of an aging western man coming for young Asian girls. On the contrary, clients are getting younger: according to the NGO Equality Now, those between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to visit the country for its sex services than those between the ages of 25 and 29.
With regard to the cliché of all sex tourists originating from western countries, the evidence is again against sweeping generalizations. There is, without a doubt, a significant number of Americans and Europeans who travel to Cambodia for sex or who would participate in sex tourism if given the chance. Nevertheless, western clients are far from being the only ones who carry these fetishes into the Cambodian border. Estimates point out that 90% of the clients are Asian and, first and foremost, from local regions. Hence, while traffickers of sex slaves were estimated in 2012 to be mainly foreigners – mostly American, Thai or Vietnamese – most of the time sex exploiters are Khmer men, women who own entertainment centers, procurers (brothel managers), and mama-san (brothel matron).
Impassive or powerless authorities
Since The 2008 Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation prostitution is strictly forbidden. From that point forward, authorities closed down a good number of brothels, even though it’s still possible to go back and ask for girls. Svay Pak Brothel, outside Phnom Penh, remains an area for sexual trading involving children, despite frequent interventions by police. Given the inefficacy of the authorities the U.S. Department of State places Cambodia in the second tier. What this means is that the Cambodian government, in spite of carrying out important efforts, is failing to comply with the minimal standards established by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000).
Overall, both the Cambodian police and judiciary systems suffer from a lack of resources. The country fights against prostitution without trained agents, with poor investigative methods, and with ineffective processes for charging and sentencing offenders. The country is plagued by corruption, and is unable to reduce violence in brothels or affect a significant drop in the number of identified victims from preceding years.
For instance, the police lack investigative experts to collect evidence. Their work is therefore entirely based on victims’ accounts rather than other concrete, scientific evidence. However, given that victims are largely unprotected and vulnerable, many offenders take advantage of the system to negotiate financial agreements in order to convince victims to modifying their initial accounts. Adding to these difficulties, the present rule of judges which refuses the possibility of under cover operations appears as a severe handicap to police and NGOs, according to whom mechanisms of trafficking children for sexual exploitation, are becoming more difficult to detect. With a larger use of middlemen in brothels, it happens less frequently in brothel using a greater number of go-betweens, leading into clandestine sexual exploitation of children. Acting under cover is often left aside although it is an essential means to collect sufficient proofs and dismantle whole prostitution networks rather than just the field actors.
In fact, whichever the hierarchic level, corruption is a curse and a burden to the Cambodian system. Collusion with the authorities contributes to a general feeling of impunity for the offender and justice denial for the victims. Cambodia is regularly ranked down among the most corrupted countries in the world, a fact which greatly damages any action against sexual exploitation the authorities might take (Transparency International, 2012). Thus, in December 2011 the previous Director of the Department of Human trafficking and Youth Protection of the Phnom Penh borough police forces, was charged with complicity and condemned in absentia, to 7 years imprisonment. He used to receive bribes from brothel in exchange for protection and information about police raids. To this day he still has not been arrested. Due to corruption of both Cambodian and Thai authorities, crossing the frontier both ways transporting victims is made easy.
Figures speak for themselves: in 2012, 40 people where condemned for sexual exploitation, yet less than the preceding year when 60 people were found guilty and still less than twenty in the year 2010. As for pedophilia, in 2012, 3 foreigners accused of sex tourism and abusing children, were condemned while two such cases are still pending. Yet other cases made quite a fuss and it s only under the joint pressure of NGOs and international instances that a foreigner, charged with pedophilia and who had been pardoned and released from jail, was expelled to South Korea. In December 2012 the charges against an Australian recognized guilty of pedophilia were reduced to nil. He was simply released, without the court considering the fact that his solicitor had bribed the victim’s family into modifying their testimony. Besides, in February 2013, following the funerals of the last King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk- who died in October 2012 – an important number of people convicted for pedophilia were pardoned. Yet a lot more should be done in suing and sentencing sexual criminals, which at present is scarce and inadequate.
However some positive actions might be singled out. Campaigns on sexual exploitation aimed at tourists’ demands, have been launched to prevent trafficking, and more is gradually done towards prevention. Thus, the Ministry of Tourism joined NGOs to set up posters, inserts in reviews and magazines or booklets on the subject. Yet these actions are mainly aimed at foreigners, although natives are the first concern. In regards to preventing children’s sexual exploitation, Cambodian authorities have set up training programs concerning violence against women, aimed at police officers and at the same time has decided to increase the number of female police officers. During investigation proceedings children seem to trust women more often than men. Yet female police officers are far less numerous and under-trained than men. Henceforth Project Childhood (Protection Pillar)45 organized actions informing professionals such as police and judiciary officers and judges, that justice in a judiciary penal system must be applied to victims with regards to human rights and sex equality. Consequently, in Phnom Penh, in September 2012, 36 under-commissioners, most of whom women, followed a program co-enquiring proceedings on children’s sexual exploitation and protection46.
Due to international pressure, Cambodian authorities seem ready to deal openly with the problem: scandals have come to lights after sentencing pedophile criminals, such as for instance an 81 years old Swiss citizen having paid for sex with a 13 years old boy47. Supported by many VIP such as Demi Moore and Susan Sarandon, Somaly Mam, now an international icon, set light on the dramatic situation in Cambodia. Trade of Innocents48, Christopher Bessette’s film dealt mainly with sexual exploitation in the country. Although still much is left to do, Cambodia is slowly progressing.
- Bramham D., « In Cambodia, there’s a price on childhood », The Vancouver Sun, March 23rd, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- ECPAT Cambodia, NGO joint statistics project – Quaterly Trend Monitoring Brief on Sexual Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation and Rape in Cambodia, January/March 2012.
- ECPAT Cambodia, NGO joint statistics project – Quaterly Trend Monitoring Brief on Sexual Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation and Rape in Cambodia, April/June 2012.
- ECPAT Cambodia, NGO joint statistics project – Quaterly Trend Monitoring Brief on Sexual Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation and Rape in Cambodia, July/September 2012.
- ECPAT International, ECPAT Annual Report July 2011 – June 2012, November 2012.
- Long S., « Somaly Mam: Cambodian sex slave-turned activist », The Jakarta Post, June 15th, 2012.
- Pesta A., « An Escape From Sex Slavery », The Daily Beast, video report (2’26), November 26th, 2012.
- Poulin Richard (interview required by), « Le système de la prostitution au Cambodge : le témoignage de Somaly Mam », Sisyphe, December 20th, 2005.
- Silverstein K., Viennot B. (traduit par), « Prostituée, le métier d'avenir des jeunes Cambodgiennes », Slate, May 30th, 2011.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- United Nations Interagency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), Cambodia : exodus to the sex trade ? Effects of the global financial crisis on women’s working conditions and opportunities, Strategic Information Response Network (SIREN) Report, July 20th, 2009.
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Cambodia fights sexual exploitation of children with more female police and by training all police on gender-based violence, November 12th, 2012.
- United Nations, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention – Concluding observations: Cambodia, Committee of the Rights of the Child, Fifty-seventh session, 30 May-17 June 2011, CRC/C/KHM/CO/2, June 20th, 2011.
- Somaly Mam Foundation : www.somaly.org
- Transparency International, Corruption perceptions index 2012,
- Population: 20.5 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 1,151
- Human development index (HDI): 0.495 (150th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.628 (136th rank among 147 countries)
- Member of the African Union since 1963.
- According to the official statistics, there were 18,000 prostitutes (men and women) in 2010. (Strategic National Plan to Fight Against HIV, AIDS, and STDs 2011-2015)
- About 40,000 girls (minors) are victims of sexual exploitation.
- Procuring is punished by an average of 10 to 20 years of imprisonment.
- Specific amendments or legislation: article 343 of the Penal Code and the law of December 14th, 2011 against children and adult trafficking.
- Country of origin, transit and destination of trade victims with the purpose of sexual exploitation.
- Domestic trade is a recurring issue.
- Destination country for sex tourism.
There is no precise and reliable statistic on the number of prostitutes and trafficking victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Cameroon. Generally, information is almost nonexistent on the matter, since very few surveys have been conducted on this phenomenon.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of 2011, the Cameroonian government demonstrated encouraging signs regarding the fight against sexual exploitation. Some progress has thus marked the year 2012, but the issues of support and care of the victims have not been discussed and dealt with by the authorities yet (U.S. Department of State, 2012).
Strengthening the Cameroonian legislative framework
In April 2011, the government adopted a new anti-trafficking law, abrogating the law of December 29th, 2005, only in relation to trafficking of children. From now on, all kinds of trafficking, children and adults, are criminalized and punished by sentences that can reach 20 years imprisonment.
Since the adoption of this new law, the government has lead five investigations, two of which resulted in 20 year prison sentences. However, some progress still has to be made regarding the problem of corruption of the police authorities and civil servants. According to the 2012 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, two of the five investigations opened in 2011 involved civil servants/public authorities. Today, none of these investigations have resulted in anything yet.
Moreover, many testimonies mention the constant issue of corruption in Cameroon. Without being directly involved in human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the police often indirectly take advantage of it. The media thus report that “the prostitutes of Yaoundé have established a form of complicity with some police officers.” The women text message the place where the prostitute person and the client went, so that the police can go there and extort the client by threatening to arrest (Slate Afrique, April 29th, 2012). The money thus obtained, usually a bit higher than the agreed price for the trick, is then shared between the prostitute person and the policemen.
Along with the reinforcement of the legislative proposal, the Cameroonian Government also put in place an Inter-Ministerial Committee for Combating Human Trafficking. This Committee is responsible for supervising the implementation of the legislation and the National Action Plan to combat child labor and trafficking. More and more awareness-raising campaigns have been launched on a regional and national level, as well as training sessions to fight child trafficking and sexual exploitation in Cameroon. As an example, an NGO created and led by Chantal Biya, First Lady of the country, has entered a partnership with tourism agencies, and tour operators to fight sex tourism.
Although efforts are gradually made to prevent any kind of trafficking, including the one with the purpose of sexual exploitation, the Cameroonian Government still struggles to ensure protection for trafficking victims. There are now more and more to be identified, but there are still no specific mechanisms and assistance procedures to make sure the victims are immediately taken care of by the NGOs. Further, when the victims decide to file a complaint against their traffickers and get involved in the investigations, they do not benefit from any governmental protection. However, the danger is very real to them.
Cameroon has realized the plague of sexual exploitation and the recent measures show it. Nevertheless, adult prostitution, of men and women, but also of children, remains a major issue in the country.
A prostitution beyond Cameroon borders
Inside the very Cameroonian territory, male and female prostitution remains very present. Still done in the street, in hotels or under the guise of a job as a housemaid, prostitution changes with the development of the internet. Thus, more and more sites offering “massage services” are created on the Cameroonian web. The owner of a cyber café has even helped a woman create her blog to sell her sexual services. According to him, this practice is quite common, and it only requires going on “a search engine and look(ing) for a masseuse in Douala” to “find many of them” (Camer, 10 octobre 2012).
The rise of the internet in Cameroon has not only changed the prostitution practices in the country, but it has also widened its frontiers. Thus, many women are lured to Europe with fake marriages contracted on the internet, or false job promises posted online. These women are then forced to prostitute themselves in Switzerland, France, Denmark, Cyprus, Spain, Germany, or even Norway and Russia. France has the most important Cameroonian community in Europe, which would explain the high number of Cameroonian prostitutes in France.
According to the Office Central pour la Répression de la Traite des Etres Humains (OCRTEH - Central Office for the Repression of Human Trafficking), Cameroon beats sad records on the matter of prostitution in Europe. Thus, in 2005, 50% of the African women prostitutes in Europe were from Cameroon. Although a no more recent figure is available, two cases broke out in 2012 and revealed the connections that exist between Cameroon and France in the area of prostitution.
In Saône-et-Loire, a prostitution network led by Cameroonian storekeepers in Chalon was dismantled. Among other things, the prostitutes had to pay about 700 € ($945 USD) to a “boss” living in Cameroon. A few months later, in Caen, a woman of Cameroonian origin, former prostitute, was sentenced to 3 years in prison for aggravated procuring. According to the elements of the investigation, the woman was exploiting some twenty prostitutes from Cameroon.
In the two cases, the prostitutes sent a certain amount of money every month to their relatives. Although the families sometimes truly believe their daughters have a “good” situation in Europe, most of the time, the women prostitute themselves with the complicity of their family.
Amely-James Koh Bela, founder of the Mayina association in Cameroon and author of striking books, assures that African networks have “a specificity”, which is the involvement of the family: “Behind each girl, behind each child who is exploited”, she says, “there is a family member, a father, a mother, an aunt, a brother or a sister, and that is very hard.” According to the activist, fake adoptions of African women living in Europe and in France, with the implicit complicity of the parents who stayed in their country, are commonplace49.
In a survey directed in 2006 by the association Children, Teenagers and Future (ASSEJA), the testimony of a young 15-year-old girl perfectly illustrates this situation: “I came to my aunt’s to pursue my studies and work in a bar at night. When I arrived, my aunt asked me to wait and go to school the following year so that I could get used to the city. Later, she asked me to work at the bar every day. When a client came on to me, I told my aunt and she told me: ‘you’re a young and pretty girl, it’s normal that men are interested in you’. One night, she came and asked me to be nice to the clients, and assured me they weren’t mean and they wouldn’t hurt me. When a rich man came to the bar, she asked me to serve him in the room behind the bar. When we arrived, he offered me money and asked me to sleep with him. I’m not allowed to refuse, or I’ll get sent back to the village. After 30 minutes, my aunt came in and asked me if he was nice. She took the money and gave me a little of it to buy clothes”.
Thus, facing poverty, some people would not hesitate to prostitute members of their own family, often very young children.
Cameroon, the new top destination for sex tourism in Africa
Child prostitution, a true plague in Cameroon with almost 40% of the young girl prostitutes aged between 9 and 20 years, attracts many tourists. Most of the children who are victims of trafficking are placed in hotels, nightclubs, and cabarets to be sexually exploited by tourists, who directly pay the owners of the establishments. The owners then pay the children.
Although the actors of the tourism industry claim to not take part in this children exploitation system, having adopted a charter against sex tourism in 2007, it is now obvious that the hotel staff does not hesitate to use stratagems to bring minor girls in the hotels, on the request of tourists (Envoyé Spécial - documentary, March 2nd, 2006).
According to the survey of 2004 of the Minister of Social Affairs (MINAS) and the UNICEF, the towns of Kribi and Limbé are the most affected by this phenomenon and attract tourists mainly from France or the United States. The Cameroonian newspaper Le Messager thus affirms that these people spend between 10,000 and 60,000 Francs CFA (between $20 and $80 USD), especially to have an underage girl in their hotel room.
The phenomenon of sex tourism, whose scope increased by the development of internet and the online release of pictures of the victims, is not the only form of exploitation from which children suffer.
Several surveys reveal cases of child pornography in Douala and Yaoundé. Even if these cases remain rare, the associations at the origin of this research raise the alarm by asserting that the production and broadcasting of pornography material with children are steadily growing in Cameroon.
Although child prostitution for the purpose of sex tourism is obviously one of the major problems that the Cameroonian authorities have to face, this phenomenon should not mask another aspect of child sexual exploitation.
The persistence of precocious and/or forced marriages
In 2008, it was revealed that the precocious marriages rates remained quite high in Western and Central Africa. In Cameroon, the rates of marriages of children were of 23% in the urban environment, and of 57% in the rural areas. Young girls from 10 to 20 years of age are also “given” to sixty year-olds or more, in exchange of several financial or social benefits. The investigation made in 2004 by the International Circle for the Promotion of Creation (CIPCRE) reveals three cases of forced marriages with girls aged 5 and 9.
In most cases, these little girls are confined, raped, abused by their husbands, or abandoned when he takes another wife.
According to ASSEJA, in some parts of Cameroon marriages are sometimes decided before the child is even born. Thus, men touch the stomach of a pregnant woman declaring their intention to marry the child if it is a girl, either for themselves, or for their boys looking for a wife. Gifts are then given to the mother and the daughter until she reaches puberty, generally when she is 12.
Another similar practice to precocious marriages and/or forced exists in Cameroon, like in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, called “forced sexual initiation”. In 200250, the World Health Organization (WHO) observed that the first sexual experience was not desired for almost 40% of the girls, and 30% of the boys.
A real and worrying phenomenon, sexual exploitation in Cameroon, which takes adults and children victims, is moreover the cause of great issues of public health. These issues include the high early pregnancy rate among the victims, and the evolution in an environment characterized by drugs and/or alcohol consumption. Also, as a result of the frequent absence of a condom, many prostitutes are affected by HIV/AIDS. According to the National Strategic Plan for HIV, AIDS and STDs of 2011-2015, the number of victims infected with HIV rate went from 26.4% in 2004 to 36.8% in 2009. Furthermore, because of the homosexuality ban in Cameroon, awareness for male prostitutes is very low.
The year 2012 is marked by the awareness of the Cameroonian Government, which heads towards a reinforcement of the fight against human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. However there is still a long way to go, particularly in terms of protection and support of the victims.
- « Le combat d’Amely-James Koh Bela contre les réseaux de prostitution en Afrique », RFI, July 20th, 2010.
- « Les nouvelles techniques de racolage des prostituées camerounaises », Slate Afrique, April 29th, 2012.
- A.D, « Caen : prison ferme pour le duo de proxénètes », La Manche libre, May 30th, 2013.
- Association Enfants Jeunes et Avenir(ASSEJA), L’exploitation sexuelle des enfants à des fins commerciales au Cameroun, July 2006.
- Bouland E., « Les prostituées versent 500 € par mois au réseau », Le Journal de Saône et Loire, December 22nd, 2012.
- Cercle international pour la promotion de la creation(CIPCRE), Enfance en danger, l’exploitation sexuelle des jeunes filles à des fins commerciales au Cameroun, December, 2004.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Farquane, A., Millet S., Cameroun : nouvelle escale du tourisme pédophile, Envoyé Spécial, France 2, Mars 2nd, 2006.
- Franciscans International, Conseil des droits de l’homme, Examen périodique universel, April-May, 2013.
- MBassa Menick D., Dassa KS, Kenmogne JB, Aabanda Ngon G., « Mineurs exploitées sexuellement à des fins commerciales : Etude multicentrique, exploratoire et prospective au Cameroun », Revue Médecine Tropicale, n.69, 2009.
- MBog R., « Les grandes destinations du tourisme sexuel en Afrique », Slate Afrique, February 14th, 2012.
- MINAS/UNICEF, L'exploitation sexuelle des enfants au Cameroun, Etude prospective dans cinq villes du Cameroun (Yaoundé, Douala, Kribi, Limbe, Ngaoundéré), April, 2004.
- Protection Project (The), A Human Rights Report on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, 2008.
- Tankeu Y., « Cameroun : Quand la prostitution est à la mode à Douala », Camer, October 10th, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in PersonsReport, June 2012.
- UNICEF, Exploitation et abus sexuels des enfants en Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre, 2008.
- Population: 34.7 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 52,219
- Constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliamentarian regime
- Human development index (HDI): 0.911 (11th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender Inequality Index (GII): 0.119 (18th rank among 147 countries)
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Prostitution is not illegal.
- Measures are taken in order to control prostitution in streets and bars.
- Country of destination for human trafficking mainly from Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and China. Transit country towards the United States.
- Development of sex tourism of Canadian nationals towards the Caribbean. Government participation in UNICEF’s program against child sexual exploitation.
The Canadian population is mainly concentrated around urban centers while the Canadian State is formed of ten provinces and three territories united around the federal government in Ontario.
Each province has its own identity and keeps to its political and administrative autonomy. However the federal functioning is hindered by deep cultural disagreements, divergent social choices and different ways of thinking - obvious in the case of Quebec.
Over several years the federal government ran a number of national programs such as the 2011-2015 Project on Gender Equality; The Project for Solidarity and Social Inclusion, The Law on Citizenship, The Law on Settlement and Protection of Refugees (LIPR) which recommended a more rigorous follow up of refugees throughout the country.
Government programs, but to what end?
Since the Pickton and Bedford cases51, Canadian society’s attention is focused on the prostitutional phenomenon. The society is gradually becoming aware of the violence prostituted women are submitted to and of the lack of involvement of the authorities to protect them.
Besides, the divergent or even controversial positioning of the stakeholders- provincial authorities, the main charities and NGO, and other such concerned - led to passionate issues : hence any kind of option is opened while anything can be said and experimented. Authorities and NGOs blame each other for the consequences of a problem which question the law and the social system itself.
The Pickton case, named after the serial killer who killed prostituted women, clearly showed how the Canadian police were prejudiced against women whether they be poor, indigenous, drug-addicted or prostituted. All of which, according to Judge Opal’s report, created serious dysfunctions.
Hence in the Bedford’s case52, after many references between local and provincial courts, the Supreme Court finally decided in reference to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to recognize the right to prostitution, yet only when hidden in brothels. Street prostitution, inciting and procuring remain forbidden, as well as any income linked to prostitution.
However, at the same moment the members of Stella, an association claiming rights for prostituted persons, demanded the same professional status and rights as any common workers.
The Quebec provincial government protested against the State professionalizing prostitution, arguing that considering it as a job on the labour market would aggravate human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Approaches, rules, opinions and positioning led to such confusion that the Federal government decided to focus its objectives to facilitate fieldwork. Recall that only the federal government of Canada is empowered to endorse agreements, arrangements or treaties. It has strengthened the fight against trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of children.
The fight against human trafficking
According to the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, 300,000 people are crossing the borders daily, a door open to traffic, despite all the security agreements, protection of persons and other bi-lateral programs between the two countries.
Two elements aggravate the situation: Canada being a transit destination to people mainly coming from Asia, South America (Caribbean and Mexico) and Eastern Europe; all this together with the extreme vulnerability of indigenous native Canadian women. Vancouver and Toronto are two hubs to human trafficking mainly to USA.
Since 2011, law enforcement on immigration, citizenship, and on the implementation of refugee protection has been strengthened, including through the expansion of the functions of the National Coordination Centre of Trafficking in Persons (HTNCC). Now, the center is authorized to perform monitoring information on persons entering the territory and control their activities in places of prostitution (massage parlors, bars, dance halls ...)
Reinforcing measures against sexual exploitation of minors in Canada has ameliorated the problem, yet not solved problem. As a matter of fact, Canadian sex tourism abroad increased - mostly in Dominican Republic, Cuba and above all Mexico- involving boys and girls aged 3 to 17. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a free trade agreement between Mexico, USA and Canada, which facilitates cross-border freedom of movement, had a perverted issue: that of facilitating the transfer of human trafficked victims and increasing sex tourism to Mexico.
Despite the measures of provincial governments and the federal government, this multiplicity of actions, studies and approaches has a double effect: to create confusion in the analysis and fundamental management prostitution and to strengthen vigilance associations.
Lobbying: vigilance, monitoring, and revelations
For the associations, each new study, each event is an indicator of omissions and gaps in public policy. Thus, the film by Rodrigue Jean, Épopée, les Prostitués par eux-mêmes (Epic, prostituting themselves), focused on harassment and violence experienced by homosexual prostitutes (Le Devoir, January 26th, 2012). This film is also supported by the Rézo group, which focuses on the health, and well-being of gay and bisexual men, and has a program to male prostitutes.
Based on dozens of stories of men confined to "a kind of ghetto of Montreal" encountered in writing workshops, the director of the docu-fiction, has a better understanding of these "life stories, often punctuated with consumption especially crack cocaine, inexpensive and intensely addictive drugs,” and ordinary prostitution stories lined by violence related to homophobia, abuse and rape.
Following this film, the organization "Gay listening" of Quebec has created the registry of homophobic acts (RAH). This service is available by phone, mail, email, chats, lists homophobic acts. The victims or witnesses of homophobic acts (physical and verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, abuse, ridicule, discrimination...) can report anonymously and for free. The compilation and analysis of this data should provide further insights into the issue of homophobia and act at prevention.
Similarly, a study from the NGO Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) has alerted the public prosecutor on violence against Aboriginal women because of their origin. These women are only 3-5% of the Canadian population, but they represent 90% of victims of prostitution and trafficking. They suffer discrimination directly with the police and judicial authorities (as shown by the death of Ashley Smith, a young Aboriginal woman victim of police violence).
Associations in Anglo-Saxon countries have a strong influence over government decisions. Lobbying is a recognized activity, although sometimes disturbing. Their action is more effective as they gather in powerful coalitions.
These associations work together to develop action plans and know-how to use the simplest ways to attract attention. The World of Women has organized the Walk4Justice, a march from Vancouver to Ottawa for female victims of trafficking, missing and murdered (aboriginal women mostly). In Montreal, the association "La Maison de Marthe" organizes every Thursday a Circle of Silence in tribute to victims of prostitution and trafficking.
And further ahead…
The problem is largely posed. In addition, it is interesting to note that it is often the victims or former victims, who are behind, and sometimes at the head of these actions and claims. They maintain a state of alertness and vigilance important in society. For now, these are questions of mentality and education that will lead to a total transformation of society.
- Amnesty International, Annual Report 2013 – The state of the world’s human rights, 2013.
- Chauffaut D., Hamel M.-P., Naves M.-C., Reynaudi M., Sauneron S., 500 propositions, innovations et curiosités sociales venues de l’étranger, Second edition, year 2012, Centre d’analyse stratégique, Panorama Questions Sociales, December 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Duchesne D., « La prostitution de rue au Canada », Juristat, 17:2. Ottawa: Statistique Canada, 1997.
- Government of Quebec, Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity, Le Québec mobilisé contre la pauvreté - Plan d’action gouvernemental pour la solidarité et l’inclusion sociale 2011-2015, June 2010.
- Montpetit C., « Epopée, dirigé par Rodrigue Jean – Prostitués par eux-mêmes », Le Devoir, January 26th, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Global report on trafficking in persons, December 2012.
- Registre des actes homophobes (French Register homophobic acts) (RAH) :
- Population: 1.35 billion
- GDP Per capita (in US dollars): 6.091 (Hong-Kong, SAR, China: 36.796)
- Single party republic
- Human development index (HDI): 0.699 (101st rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.213 (35th rank among 147 countries)
- According to the Chinese Communist Party, there are between 3 and 4 million prostitutes.
- In continental China, prostitution is illegal (Article 66 and 67, Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administrative Penalty, 2005). Prostitutes, clients, and procurers are penalized.
- In Hong Kong, prostitution in private apartments is legal. Solicitation and brothels are prohibited. In Macao, prostitution in private apartments is legal, solicitation is prohibited. In Taiwan, prostitution in private apartments is decriminalized, solicitation is illegal, and brothels are legal.
- Phenomenon of significant domestic human trafficking: lack of national data.
- Country of origin, transit, and destination for trade victims.
- Destinations of Chinese victims: Thailand, Burma, European, African and American countries.
- Origins of victims in China: neighboring countries (Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Mongolia, North Korea), Russia, European, African and American countries.
As in previous years, the news in 2012 for prostitution in mainland China is marked by several large police raids in major cities. In Beijing, an anti-prostitution campaign, conducted from April 20th to May 30th, 2012, led to the closure of 48 facilities of "entertainment" (China Daily, June 13th, 2012). In a second campaign, the Beijing police conducted raids in 180 schools and 660 suspects were detained over a period of two weeks (Global Times, July 13th, 2012). After a report by Human Rights Watch in May 2013, widely publicized repressive measures have resulted in an increase in police violence and abuse in general against prostitutes.
The situation of prostitution in China is extremely precarious. Prostitutes are victims of discrimination, of violence, of arbitrary detention, of forced labor... no improvement is noted for the year 2012. Instead, it rather is a decline. Although some grassroots organizations are fighting for the rights of prostitutes to be respected, it is clear that the strategy adopted by the central government remains more repressive than ever. Prostitution is also officially regarded as part of the "six evils" of society including gambling, superstitions, drug trafficking, pornography and the trafficking of women and children. Furthermore, prostitution is regarded by the government as a "disgusting social phenomenon" (Human Rights Watch, 2013).
Chinese legislation and its relations to prostitution
Mainland China has a prohibitionist regime, resulting in the criminalization of prostitutes, procurers and customers. The peculiarity of the Chinese law lies in the fact that the prohibition of prostitution is under administrative law, not criminal law, as is generally the case. The fines to penalize prostitutes range from 500 CNY ($82 USD) to 5,000 CNY ($820 USD). In addition, prostitutes can be placed in administrative detention for 5 to 10 days, in the center of "detention and education" from 6 months to 2 years, or in the center of "reeducation through labor" for 3 years - in case of recurrence. Procuring is, meanwhile, prohibited by the Penal Code with imprisonment up to 10 years. The fact of knowingly transmitting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) through prostitution is punishable by a prison sentence of five years under the Penal Code (UNDP, 2012).
The system of administrative detention does not provide protection for those convicted. They have no access to a lawyer. Administrative detention is not decided by a court, but by a Committee headed by the police. Opportunities to appeal the judgment are almost non-existent. One can therefore, under international law, define administrative detention, sending in detention, and reeducation through labor as arbitrary since individuals may be deprived of their liberty without any judicial process. Studies have shown that abuses such as forced labor, torture, verbal abuse are common in these centers. The Chinese government does not release information on the subject. Further, one ignores these establishments and the number of people who are detained there (Human Rights Watch, 2013).
Police violence against prostitutes
For a person to be detained because of prostitution, the police must have evidence that there actually was a sexual act in exchange for a monetary or material reward. But most often, the police hold the suspects with no or very little evidence. In addition, the non-registration of the fines collected is a common practice among law enforcement and is a significant extra-budgetary source. There are quotas for fines for the local police to reach, despite the prohibition by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. The amount of fines subject to tax is unknown, leaving the spotlight on corruption (Human Rights Watch, 2013).
In addition to the fines being imposed in an arbitrary and non-transparent manner by the police to people suspected of being prostitutes, they are also victims of physical and verbal abuse, particularly during interrogations in which the police are trying to get their confessions. According to an article in the South China Morning Post on December 14th 2012, the extortion of confession is supposedly a common practice. According to a 2012 report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), cases of torture, including the use of electric shocks, have even been reported, in contrast to the provisions of the National Human Rights Action Plan adopted by the country.
Moreover, the police supposedly use possession of condoms as evidence that the suspects are indeed engaged in prostitute activity, in spite of the instructions on Principles for Propaganda and Education Regarding AIDS Prevention from 1998 which insists that the police “refrain from using possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution." The consequences of this practice are harmful to prostitutes, their customers and the general public, as it causes the prostitutes to not carry condoms on them, and therefore to have unprotected sex, which leads to risks of transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. In addition, the police claim to provide protection to some prostitutes or some brothels in exchange for free sex (Human Rights Watch, 2013).
Abusive practices of Public Health Services
Chinese law allows the Ministry of Public Health and the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) to perform forced testing for HIV/AIDS tests, without requiring them to communicate the results to those tested. The survey conducted by the American NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reveals breaches of confidentiality of test results, with results communicated to third persons, and no provision of appropriate health care services to prostitutes with HIV/AIDS. In addition, prostitutes have told HRW researchers that they have been mistreated by the medical staff. In some cases, these abuses have led to the expulsion of prostitutes from public medical institutions, especially when the prostitutes are working with the police. All these violations of human rights to health, to dignity and to confidentiality of medical information are harmful to the health of prostitutes and the objectives of reducing HIV/AIDS among prostitutes and the general population.
During February 2012, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region - second most affected place in China for HIV infection - a bill ending the anonymous testing was filed, creating a debate across the country. Hunan Province has already approved the measure. Lawyers and activists immediately protested against the removal of anonymous testing arguing that people would be less likely to take the test under such conditions, because of the strong social stigma attached to the disease. Officials from the Department of Public Health and director of the CDC were in favor of this measure because, by tracking people who had sex with or sharing needles with people who tested positive, the fight against the virus would more efficient (Caixin, June 3rd, 2012).
An alarming phenomenon of trafficking
In 2012, China moved to tier 3 in the classification established by the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking. This decline, after nine consecutive years on the Watch List in tier 2, is explained by the fact that the Chinese authorities are not doing enough to bring the Chinese legislation against trafficking to the international minimum standards. It is both a country of origin, transit and destination. The phenomenon of internal trafficking is highly developed and particularly affects the migrant worker population, which is estimated to exceed 236 million people. The situation of girls and commercial sexual exploitation of North Korean women victims is particularly alarming. Once adopted by the authorities, they are detained and forcibly returned to North Korea, where they might be extremely severe penalties up to the death penalty. In addition, the Chinese government continues to deny access to North Koreans in northeast China to the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR), leaving the refugees vulnerable to traffickers.
International crime syndicates and local gangs, with the help of corrupt officials, play a key role in the operation of Chinese victims abroad, as well as in the foreign victims in the China. In July 2012, eight girls of less than 14 years of age were abducted and forced into prostitution. Local officials and businessmen were among five people arrested in connection with the case. Although several press articles indicate a strengthening of anti-trafficking efforts put in place by the Chinese authorities, it remains difficult to get a clear idea because the government provides very little information, both about the arrests and prosecutions.
Prostitution and gambling in Macau
Returned to China in 1999 by Portugal, Macau enjoys a high degree of autonomy from the central government outside of foreign policy and defense. The legal regime for prostitution differs from that enforced on the continent. In the texts, only prostitution in private premises is legal. Soliciting and procuring are prohibited by the Penal Code. They are respectively punished with a 5,000 patacas (MOP) maximum fine ($640 USD) and 1 to 5 years in prison (UNDP, 2012).
Being the only part of China where gambling is allowed, 70% of Macau’s economy depended on income from taxes on casinos in 2012. The profit of Macau casinos grew to be six times higher than in Las Vegas. In 2012, 28 million people visited the peninsula, a large majority from mainland China. Despite the illegality of prostitution in Macau, it takes place in some casinos, massage parlors, karaoke... The vast majority of sex workers are from mainland China, especially in rural areas. They enter the territory initially with two week tourist visas (UNDP, 2012). Other prostitutes are primarily from Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand and Russia. Crime syndicates from China, Russia and Thailand are suspected to be involved in the recruitment of women victims for commercial sexual exploitation in the peninsula (U.S. Department of State, 2013).
The legislation of the Macao Special Administrative Region - Law Number 6 /2008 - prohibits trafficking in all its forms and provides for imprisonment up to 15 years. As of 2012, Macao made progress in the fight against trafficking in previous years: 2 cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation have been brought before the courts, nine traffickers were convicted, 25 victims identified and assisted. However, 17 other prostitutes associated with these cases were not recognized as trafficking victims, because of their "voluntary" association with traffickers. Until the end of legal proceedings, victims - identified as such - were accommodated in shelters run by the Social Welfare Bureau. Once the judgment was reached, they were repatriated without being left with another choice. Macau authorities have made some efforts in prevention, including seizing 200,000 brochures relating to prostitution and arresting 423 people distributing them (U.S. Department of State, 2013).
In 2012, a scandal concerning money from prostitution in Macau began in the United States. Steven Jacobs launched a lawsuit against his former employer Sheldon Adelson (U.S. billionaire, owner of several casinos in the United States and Macau) accusing him of allowing free rein of prostitution in his casinos to increase attendance. S. Adelson is a major contributor to the Republican Party that massively funded Mitt Romney’s campaign in the last U.S. presidential elections (BBC, August 24th, 2012). In addition, a case of prostitution of a minor in a casino owned by an American citizen was reported in 2012 (U.S. Department of State, 2013).
Prostitution and trafficking in Hong Kong and Taiwan
Within the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong prostitution is only legal in private premises. Soliciting and procuring in any form is prohibited by Section 200 of the Crimes Ordinance. In fact, one observes that prostitution takes place in private apartments, sublet to prostitutes mainly from mainland China. Most of them enter the country with short-term visas, or forged identity documents. The police raids in these apartments often lead to arrests for offenses of illegal residence. Prostitution also occurs in clandestine brothels in connection with organized crime, and karaoke, discos... (UNDP, 2012)
With regard to trafficking for sexual exploitation, Hong Kong remains in tier 2 for the fourth consecutive year in the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking. The efforts of the Hong Kong authorities to fight against trafficking are limited by legislation - Crime Ordinance, Chapter 200, Section 129 - which does not take into account all forms of trafficking, provides unequal application of formal procedures for identifying victims, and lacks of provisions protecting the victims.
According to the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, there were three cases of prosecution under Section 129. 10 people have been convicted under Section 130, which prohibits forced or organized prostitution and/or for offenses related to trafficking prostitution, compared to six in 2011. However, the sentences are very mild. 6 people found guilty were sentenced on average to 6 months imprisonment, while others were placed under parole or sentenced to community service, which demonstrates that procuring is not considered a serious offense by the Hong Kong authorities.
Regarding the Taiwan Province of China, the regime is a regulationist regime. Only the solicitation is prohibited, prostitution in private places is decriminalized, and procuring is legal, but only in the official "red light districts.” Prostitution outside these areas is penalized under Article 80 of the Social Order and Maintenance Act 1991 (recently amended in 2011) which provides for a fine to a prostitute of 30,000 TWD ($1,026 USD ) and for the customer a fine of 50,000 TWD ($1,700 USD), and the head of the house of prostitution five days of detention. In addition to the requirement to have a license to brothels and prostitutes, they must submit to periodic health examinations. Severe legal constraints on the licensed prostitutes and prostitution establishments allowed53, combined with the decision of the capital, Taipei, to suspend the issuance of new licenses in 2001, which led to a great reduction of legal prostitution54. Along with this decline, according to a 2012 report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), one observes an increase in illegal prostitution in a wide variety of establishments (karaoke bars, massage parlors, etc.).
In the fight against trafficking, Taiwan is an exemplary student. According to the 2012 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, it is located in tier 1 for the third consecutive year. Taiwanese legislative framework is in line with international minimum standards. Taiwan is primarily a destination for victims of trafficking, mainly from mainland China, Southeast Asia and South Asia. In 2012, the Taiwanese authorities have convicted of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation 186 people, compared to only 113 in 2011, under Taiwan's Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act with sentences ranging from 6 months to 7 years imprisonment. On the other hand, still in 2012, authorities have identified and assisted 310 trafficking victims. The peninsula has 21 shelters for victims of trafficking under the administration of two government agencies: the National Immigration Agency (NIA) and the Council for Labor Affairs (CLA) managed by NGO partners of the government (U.S. Department of State, 2013).
Efforts in prevention have also been made. In October 2012, the MTV EXIT’s film "Enslaved,” which features stories of trafficked victims went to Taiwanese television. According to estimates, the film was seen by about 200,000 people. In November 2012, the NIA organized a seminar in Taipei about experiences of trafficking victims and members of NGOs. A total of 220 aid workers, academics, and Taiwanese officials attended the seminar (U.S. Department of State, 2013).
With two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macao as well as the autonomous region of Taiwan, there are four very different legal frameworks that have been implemented, both in terms of prostitution that the fight against trafficking. This naturally results in extremely different situations. The lack of attention to the victims, their implicitly complicit attitude to the authorities, and the involvement of organized crime syndicates do seem to be common factors in these four contexts. Taiwan could be modeled in the fight against trafficking, as the country’s actions seem effective.
- « Ex-Sands executive alleges prostitution in Macao casinos », Taipei Times, July 3rd, 2012.
- « Prostitution crackdown », Global Times, July 13th, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Edsall T. B., « Embracing Sheldon Adelson », The New York Times, August 6th, 2012.
- Grange (de la) A., « Macao, table de jeu de toute la Chine », Le Figaro, August 24th, 2012.
- Human Rights Watch, Swept Away, Abuses Against Sex Workers in China, May 2013.
- Jeffreys E., Sex and Sexuality in China, Routledge Ed., 2006.
- Kao E., « More sex workers report abuse by police, survey finds », South China Morning Post, December 17th, 2012.
- Musa Ladu I., « Women face travel ban to China over prostitution », Daily Monitor, December 13th, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), HIV and men who have sex with men: Country Snapshot - China, November 2012.
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Sex work and the law in Asia and the Pacific, 2012.
- Xuyan F., Qingfeng W., « Lawyers, Activists Decry Plans for Real-Name Registration in HIV Testing », Caixin, June 3rd, 2012.
- Yabin J., « Police bust budget hotel hooker service », Global Times, November 19th, 2012.
- Yin C., « Crackdown on venues suspected of prostitution », China Daily, June 13th, 2012.
- Zhang L., « In China, sex workers' lack of legal protection fans police abuse », South China Morning Post, December 14th, 2012.
- Population: 47.6 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 7,752
- Presidential regime
- Human development index (HDI): 0.719 (91st rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.459 (87th rank among 147 countries)
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Prostitution is legal under the condition that it is consenting and that no minors are involved. Procuring is sanctioned by article 213 of the Penal Code. Sex tourism of minors is punished under article 219 of the Penal Code.
- Human trafficking with the purpose of sexual exploitation is illegal (anti-trafficking law number 985 of 2005, but the decree of victim protection required by said law is still not enacted).
- Sex tourism is mainly located on the Atlantic Coast in Cartagena and Barranquilla, as well as in Medellin or in the capital, Bogota. In Cartagena, nearly 1,500 boys and girls are victims of sex tourism.
- Each year, close to 35,000 Colombians are victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation abroad.
Colombia is the only South American country still experiencing an armed conflict, which has lasted since the 1960s. A civil war from 1948 to 1957, caused by the assassination of leftist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, resulted in an agreement called the "National Front," which lasted until 1974. Nevertheless, several armed groups including those with communist tendencies, challenged the agreement and refused to surrender. Thus, for over 50 years, armed conflict raged in the country involving different actors such as paramilitaries, Marxist guerrillas with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the armed forces of the state (Les Amis du Monde diplomatique, June 8th, 2013).
The armed conflict has a negative impact on the population, including forced displacement to escape the violence, high unemployment... The poverty level remains high (45%). In this context, vulnerable, young Colombians are easy prey for sexual exploitation and may be the preferred targets of armed conflict. Sexual violence against women is a formidable weapon in the service of terror (Le Monde, March 2nd, 2013). The violence committed by various armed actors in the conflict includes rape and prostitution. According to a study published in December 2010 by Intermon Oxfam, nearly 500,000 people have been victims of violence between 2001 and 2009. Armed groups have also forced more than 1,500 women into prostitution during the same period.
Legal framework in question
Trafficking in persons
Colombia, with law number 800 of 2003 endorsed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime adopted on November 15th, 2000 and the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially of women and children (Ministerio del Interior y Justicia, June 28th, 2013). Colombian law number 985 of 2005 provides that "whoever captures, transfers, harbors or receives a person, in the country or outside the country, for the purpose of exploitation shall be punished by imprisonment ranging from 13 to 23 years and a fine of 800 to 1,500 times the legal monthly minimum wage" (IOM, 2011).
A decree for the protection of victims required by the Anti-Trafficking Act 2005 was written in 2008, but has not been enacted to date. Colombia is recommended, by the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, to issue the decree and to ensure that all victims of trafficking have access to the protection of specialized services. NGOs are much more active than the Colombian government. Nevertheless, the government finances many projects, such the opening an emergency shelter by NGOs for adult trafficking victims in 2012.
In decision T-620 of 1995, the Constitutional Court stated that prostitution is not desirable in that it is contrary to the dignity of the human person. But this does not mean it prohibited prostitution which does not constitute an offense (Vanguardia, May 7th, 2012). In decision T-629 of 2010, the same court, citing the constitutional principle, which guarantees the protection of the rights of persons belonging to a discriminated group, has traditionally protected the rights of victims of prostitution in areas such as wages and benefits (Semana, October 6th, 2010). To summarize, prostitution is legal provided there is consent and no minor is involved (La Patria, April 22nd, 2012). The Penal Code provides for various offenses including procuring, pandering of a minor, and sex tourism. A procurer can be punished with imprisonment from 2 to 4 years and a fine of 50 to 500 times the monthly minimum wage (Article 213), and imprisonment ranging from 14 to 25 years and a fine of 67 to 750 times said salary in case of procuring a child (Article 213A ). As for sex tourism, under section 219 of the Code, one is liable to imprisonment of 4 to 8 years when minors are involved55. Prostitution is not protected by a standard; Senator Armando Benedetti announced that he will present a bill to regulate prostitution in Colombia, particularly on issues related to work, health, safeguards, dignity of work and rights (El Espectador, May 6th, 2012).
Internal and external trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation
Most often, the legal prostitution in Colombia conceals trafficking for sexual exploitation, even if women decide voluntarily to prostitute themselves, with no other option to live. This is particularly the case of Colombian migrants fleeing the violence of Colombia (guerrilla threats) to neighboring countries like Peru or Ecuador, but also in Chile and Argentina (Radio Miami, June 20th, 2012). In Colombia, sexual exploitation represents 68.6% of human trafficking according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Trafficking in Colombia has two different realities, internal processes and external trafficking. According to the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, the Colombian authorities have identified in 2012 128 new cases of trafficking, most of them concerning Colombian victims of sexual exploitation abroad. The sentences ranged from 6 to 10 years of imprisonment.
Internal Trafficking for sexual exploitation
Internal trafficking has increased by 140%, from 713 cases in 2008 to 1,708 in 2011. These are the known cases, the phenomenon remains invisible elsewhere. Internal trafficking networks have stepped up their actions against young boys and girls and adolescents (La Patria, July 1st, 2012). These networks, too often perceived as exerting an industry like any other, do not belong to organized crime and the international mafias. It is, ultimately, small sex operators that attract young victims (El Pais, September 3rd, 2012). According to the IOM, the places most affected by internal trafficking are Bogota, Cundinamarca, Putumayo, Nariño, Santander, and Sucre. 83.3% of victims are girls, while 16.7% of boys. According to the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), two factors contribute to the sexual exploitation of children: family factors (physical abuse, sexual abuse, family dysfunction, family abandonment, economic pressure, parents involved in the sale of their children) and sociocultural factors (school desertion, begging, armed conflict, living in areas where prostitution is rampant) (El Colombiano, April 30th, 2012). The most effective way to capture future victims, who often use drugs and alcohol, is lapping near secondary schools, mostly in poor neighborhoods, where there are a lot of cafes to post offers encouraging young people to work as a model or football player (El Tiempo, August 30th, 2012). Sex operators try to bond with the friends and family of the future victim to exert threats, thereafter for refusing sexual intercourse or in case of escape (El Pais, May 20th, 2012). The person taking the child, a neighbor or a single family friend for example, may be part of a network or be a mere intermediary. He can get up to 1 million COP ($553 USD) for each victim from cities like Cali, Medellin and Pereira. If the victim is in a rural area, the price is lower (El Pais, September 3rd, 2012). The police helplessly explain that the victims do not report their attackers, or claim their attackers are their "husbands," even if the disclosure may be made anonymously. Their silence makes the application of the law very complicated. The year 2012 was nevertheless marked by the dismantling of some sexual exploitation networks. The police succeeded in arresting 91 offenders involved in networks across the country (El Pais, November 20th, 2012).
External trafficking for sexual exploitation
External trafficking is so present in Colombia that a popular television series "The promesa" reveals the plight of thousands of people seeking to fulfill their dreams: a quest that leads some of them to believe in the false promises of someone they know or of strangers. According to INTERPOL calculations, 35,000 Colombians are victims of sex trafficking abroad each year (El Espectador, November 19th, 2012). Colombia was a country of origin for victims sent to developed countries, such as Japan, Spain, Hong Kong, and Singapore. But since 2010, the final destinations also include Latin American countries like Guatemala, Argentina, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and the Caribbean. All strategies are good for attracting future victims who come to most of Pereira, Bogota, Cali, Medellin, Antioquia, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca. A study by the University of La Sabana in Bogota has identified three types of victims: those who are deceived, who are told that they are going to take care of children, for example, those who know they will enter into prostitution but do not know the actual conditions of the practice, finally, those who are aware of everything and do not care (El Universal, April 28th, 2013). 70% of victims of external trafficking were victims of a false job offer (El Pais, September 3rd, 2012). The reality of a trafficking victim is that of external debt. In order to send a Colombian to destinations where he/she operates, especially in the Asian market such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, the network must pay $4,200 to $6,700 USD for transportation. Once there, the victim must pay a debt to the mafia of $30,000 to $35,000 USD of "debt," which would take two years to pay (El Universal, April 28th, 2013). Fighting against this scourge is necessary. The IOM program to fight against human trafficking responds in principle to all cases and supports victims across the country. The group against Trafficking in Persons of the Ministry of Interior receives all files and transmits them to the departmental committees (El Pais, September 3rd, 2012). However, the U.S. Department of State doubts in its 2013 Report on Human Trafficking, the reality of some of these committees, which exist only in name, and in particular due to a lack of funds.
Sex tourism amid scandals
Many foreign tourists, mainly Italian and Spanish, make a trip to the Atlantic, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellin or Bogota Capital Coast to practice sex tourism involving children. In Cartagena, 1,500 boys and girls were victims of sex tourism in 2012 (Stop child sex tourism-Blog, January 29th, 2013). These victims can be contacted on the internet, in popular brothels or places of independent practice. Companies put foreign clients in contact with victims (El Universal, April 19th, 2012). Some "tour operators" create packages, where everything is included (La Patria, April 22nd, 2012). Few statistics exist on the subject, as it is quite illegal activity (El País, April 22nd, 2012). However, several cases have hit the headlines in 2012.
In April 2012, more than a dozen secret agents of U.S. President Obama were suspended, after being implicated in a case of alleged prostitution in Cartagena before the arrival of the president (Le Monde, April 15th, 2012). "Such practices do not happen only once, if they have not already happened before," said the President of the Commission on the monitoring of U.S. government departments, Darrell Issa (Le Monde, April 16th, 2012). This scandal has inspired publicists. The U.S. airline Spirit Airlines has an ad campaign for flights to Colombia with a poster depicting a secret agent in the foreground, behind him with four women in swimsuits and the slogan "More bang for your buck". The campaign was withdrawn following reactions of Colombian authorities, who denounced incitement to sex tourism (Americas, April 23rd, 2012).
A similar case took place a few months later. The Ambassador of Honduras to Colombia was forced to resign after revelations of an evening organized December 20th, 2012 by his bodyguard in the offices of the embassy, with alcohol and prostitutes (Midi Libre, January 6th, 2013).
Sex tourism is a Colombian reality. However, according to the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, it is clear that in 2012, there was no investigation, prosecution or conviction for sex tourism offenders.
The role of NGOs
In August 2012, thanks to the work of Terre des Hommes Foundation in Colombia, Cartagena court sentenced a trafficker to 9 years in prison for child pornography and child sexual abuse. Terre des Hommes organizes awareness seminars and training on the topic of sexual exploitation of children in partnership with the NGO Aldeas Infantile and Herlinda Madre Foundation. These campaigns aim to restore public confidence in state institutions, as the distrust of citizens partly explains the low number of complaints filed related to the number of victims. Fighting against this lack of trust contributes to the fight against sexual exploitation.
- « Alcools et prostituées à l’Ambassade du Honduras en Colombie : l’ambassadeur démissionne », Midi Libre, January 6th, 2013.
- « Colombia, segundo país occidental con las peores cifras de tráfico sexual », El Espectador, November 19th, 2012.
- « Colombia: la prostitución también es un trabajo: Corte constitucional », Semana, October 6th, 2010.
- « Colombie XXIe siècle : les fusils des paramilitaires et des militaires aux trousses de la population », Les Amis du Monde diplomatique, June 8th, 2013.
- « Colombie : Exploitation sexuelle – défaut de confiance pour négligences », Terre des Hommes, October 3rd, 2012.
- « Con ley pretenden reglamentar la prostitución », Vanguardia, May 7th, 2012.
- « De que se encarga? », Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia, June 28th, 2013.
- « Desarticulan red dedicada a la prostitución infantil en Bogotá », El Pais, November 20th, 2012.
- « Dramáticos testimonios de mujeres, víctimas de la trata de persona », El Pais, May 20th, 2012.
- « EE.UU. Reconoce a Colombia como uno de los países con más explotación sexual », Semana, April 24th, 2012.
- « En Colombie, les femmes cibles privilégiées des conflits armés », Le Monde, March 2nd, 2013.
- « En la prostitución desde 11 anos », El Colombiano, April 30th, 2012.
- « Informe exclusivo: así se mueven los tentáculos de la trata de personas en Colombia », El Pais, September 3rd, 2012.
- « Inmoral, mas no ilegal », El Espectador, May 6th, 2012.
- « Las prostitutas que vuelven locos a los extranjeros », El Universal, April 19th, 2012.
- « Le voyage d’Obama en Colombie entaché par un scandale de prostitution », Le Monde, April 15th, 2012.
- « Où a lieu le tourisme sexuel ? », Stop au tourisme sexuel-Blog, January 29th, 2013.
- « Paso a paso por la trata de personas en Colombia », El Universal, April 28th, 2013.
- « Prostitución colombiana en Chile », Radio Miami, June 20th, 2012.
- « Scandale de prostitution : Obama revient en Colombie avec un bilan en demi-teinte », Le Monde, April 16th, 2012.
- « Spirit retire une publicité incitant au tourisme sexuel », Americas (magazine du tourisme), April 23rd, 2012.
- « Trata de personas se ensaña contra los menores de edad », La Patria, July 1st, 2012.
- « Turismo sexual, problema sin cifras ni control », La Patria, April 22nd, 2012.
- « Victima de trata de personas relata su drama », El Tiempo, August 30th, 2012.
- « Violencia sexual en contra de las mujeres en el contexto del conflicto armado colombiano », Intermon Oxfam, September 14th, 2010.
- «Turismo sexual, una problemática nacional », El Pais, 22 April 22nd, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Organización internacional parla las migraciones (OIM), La trata de personas – Hecho y Cifras - Ano 2002 a Enero 2013, 2013.
- Trujillo E V., Flores C. E., Mendoza Simonds L. M., Trata de personas en Colombia: una aproximación a la magnitud y comprensión del problema, Organización internacional par la las migraciones (IOM), Universidad de los Andes, Primera edición, Bogotá, November 2011.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá D.C. - Bogota Jurídica Digital : www.alcaldiabogota.gov.co
- Information on the popular television series (La Promesa) mentions human trafficking: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/fr/frontpage/2013/March/popular-tv-drama-delivers-human-trafficking-message-in-colombia.html.
- The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs – France Diplomatie : www.diplomatie.gouv.fr
- Population: 69.6 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 272
- Presidential regime
- Human Development Index (HDI): 0.304 (186th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender Inequality Index (GII): 0.681 (143rd rank among 147 countries)
- Member of the African Union since 1963.
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Over a hundred ethnic groups.
- Congolese legislation prohibits forced prostitution as well as prostitution of minors (under the age of 18).
- Country of origin, destination, and possibly of transit for trade victims.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo underwent three successive wars between 1996 and 2008, which killed over five million people and displaced more then 2.5 million.
A country ravaged by murderous conflicts and resulting instability
In April 2012, the security situation in the east of the country deteriorated rapidly. Hundreds of militiamen of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), who had been integrated in the national army, FARDC, revolted and formed M23, an armed group supported by Rwanda. The name M23 comes from the peace agreement signed on March 23, 2009 that, according to the militia, was not respected. Bosco Ntaganda, who was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in front of the International Criminal Court in 2006, notably directed the group.
At the end of November in 2012, the M23 group occupied Goma, in North Kivu, during 11 days. Due to international pressure, the group left the area, provoking the displacement of more than 130,000 people around Goma and the flight of 47,000 others toward South Kivu (UN News Center, December 9th, 2012).
The government’s reallocation of troops in the fight against M23, in both North and South Kivu, created a security vacuum in the zones without the FARDC. This provoked an increased activity of other armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). Due to the conflict, and additional 500,000 were displaced. The citizens of these regions remain particularly threatened by kidnappings, forced enrolment and forced work in the mines, and by sexual violence.
For this reason, despite the disputed reelection of President Joseph Kabila in 2011, the east of the country remains scarred by conflict between government forces and Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan rebel forces. In the east, the government remains unable to fortify, legitimize, and reinstate its authority.
A state with worrying areas of sexual violence
According the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a source, transit point, and destination for human trafficking with the purpose of forced prostitution.
The majority of this traffic originates in the heart of the Congo. Those responsible are situated in the east of the country (North Kivu, South Kivu, Oriental Province). They are often members of armed groups and government forces, who have escaped the control of the government. Those involved include the M23, the FDLR, the Coalition of Congolese Resistance Patriots, numerous local defense groups (Mai-Mai), the Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri (FRPI), the Popular Front for Justice in Congo (FPJC), Allied Democratic Forces, National Army for the Liberation of Uganda, and the Lord’s Resistance Army. These groups continue to kidnap and recruit men, women, and children by force to increase their ranks and serve as sex slaves.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, in his report on children and armed conflicts, indicated that 80% of enrollments counted in the DRC in 2012 took place in the provinces of North and South Kivu. 5,022 child victims of sexual violence received the help and support of the United Nations.
He reported numerous instances of gang rapes in 2012, confirmed by the report published by the U.S. Department of State on Human Rights Practices in the DRC. More precisely, on the 24th and 25th of June 2012, nearly 100 combatants suspected of membership to Mai-Mai Lumumba attacked the nature reserve of Okapi in the Mambasa territory. At least 51 women were raped and 22 used as sex slaves. At the end of 2012, 17 of these 22 women were estimated to still be in the hands of the Mai-Mai, are sex slaves. An arrest warrant was launched against Moran, the presumed leader of the Mai-Mai.
In June, members of the Mai-Mai Simba group raped an additional 28 girls between the ages of 10 and 17 in Epulu, a city in the Orientale Province.
Between November 20th and 30th, government security forces committed acts of violence in Minova and in the surrounding area, near Goma in North Kivu. Following M23’s capture of Goma, the group quickly fled the area. 126 cases of rapes were reported; two soldiers were arrested.
In the meantime, no progress have been made in the trial of seven individuals accused of organizing gang rapes of 303 children, women, and men, in 13 villages of Waliakle, in North Kivu, between July and August 2010. The FDLR, Mai-Mai Cheka, and FPLC reportedly committed these rapes collectively, alongside the combatants directed by Colonel Emmnanuel Nsengiyumva. One of those arrested escaped from prison in Goma, when the city was captured by M23 on November 20th, 2012. The seven accused are therefore still on the run.
Taking into account the number of armed conflicts and military incidents, full statistics on rape, and particularly rapes against men, are hard to collect. The director of protection for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Ituri indicated that more than 1,500 cases of sexual violence were registered in 2012 in the Orientale Province district (Radio Okapi, March 23rd, 2013). During the first six months of 2012, Heal Africa, an NGO based in Goma, counted 178 men and 2339 women, including 745 minors, among the survivors of sexual violence in 14 clinics throughout North Kivu. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy reported in 2013 that among 4,464 survivors of sexual violence in 2011, 33% were children.
It is appropriate to note that women who are raped encounter particular difficulties, given that their spouses and communities frequently reject them for being pregnant with the child of their aggressor. After the attack, they also encounter medical issues, and are unable to receive proper treatment. They must supply for their needs and the needs of their children, abandoned and without a helping hand.
In addition to these issues, young Congolese women are forced by criminal networks, gangs, or brothel directors to become prostitutes in brothels, simple camps, around markets, or around mines. Girls living on the street are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking. In Kinshasa, Chinese and Congolese women are victims of prostitution in massage parlors run by Chinese citizens. According to a report by the World Bank in 2010, 26% of children living in the street were girls, of whom 9 out of 10 were involved in prostitution and 7 out of 10 were raped (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, 2013).
Congolese women and children are also the victims of forced work and prostitution in Angola, South Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, the DRC, and in Europe. Women from Bas-Congo are also forced by their family to become prostitutes, and sent to Angola where they become merchandise for sex commerce. Certain reports state that young Congolese women from Bandundu and from Bas-Congo are attracted to Angola by the promise of employment. Once they arrive, they are often trapped and forced into prostitution or other lines of work.
Large cities and rural commercial centers particularly affected by child prostitution
A memoire in 2012 by Blaise Masirika Irenge, which describes 61 child prostitutes working in the Kavumu mall in South Kivu, reveals the proliferation of child prostitution in large cities and rural commercial centers of the DRC. This phenomenon can be explained by the successive wars, which affected the Republic, and kept the population in a lengthened period of poverty. This poverty pushed many girls to abandon their studies early, and to begin as prostitutes. In conflict zones, notable in the east of the DRC, sexual violence is widespread. Violence and insecurity provoke the displacement of habitants toward urban areas or relatively safe rural commercial centers. Having abandoned their work and their fields, those who flee their homes often find themselves with no means of survival, and become involved in black market activities such as prostitution. According to a study in 2011, the commercial center of Kavumu comprises around 40 brothels which house young girls, and more than 10 hotels or nightclubs in which minors prostitutes. Their presence can be explained by the construction of the Kavumu airport, the presence of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO), the number of nightclubs, the number of people displaced from local villages, and the existence of numerous military camps.
In addition, the author of this study revealed that superstitious beliefs attribute certain benefits to having sexual relations with minors (presumed to be virgin, or having had few sexual partners). These beliefs hold that sex with minors allows one to avoid and cure HIV/AIDS, to gain personal success, to maintain virility, and to prolong life.
The study additionally reports that 59% of girls questioned prostitutes due to difficulties of survival. 27% reported that they practiced the activity in search of sexual pleasure. 94% had left their home village, most often for reasons pertaining to insecurity. 77% did not live with their family, due to their family’s poverty. 29.8% lived without their family in order to gain liberty, and 27.7% stated that their familial homes were a bad environment. 91.8% of all women had stopped their studies prematurely, mostly due to familial poverty. Nearly one third sell their services to partners of all professions, while 13.1% only sell their bodies to government workers. 59% don’t undergo medical examinations, but 59% use a condom. The older girls, between the ages of 15 and 17, are twice as likely to use a condom than the younger girls who are less than 15 years old.
Significant legislation to punish prostitution
The DRC maintain a significant legislative arsenal to punish forced prostitution and child prostitution. To speak of precise legislation, the DRC’s constitution, adopted in 2006, obliges public powers to reduce violence against women (article 14) and to eliminate sexual violence (article 15).
Law number 06/018 of July 20th, 2006, pertains to sexual violence, prohibiting inter alia, procuring, force prostitution, sexual slavery, child prostitution, trafficking or exploitation of children for sexual purposes. All of these activities are punishable by a fine and by a prison sentence that ranges between 3 months and 20 years.
Law number 09/001of January 10th, 2009, pertains to the protection of children, punishing procuring, sexual exploitation, sex slavery, and trafficking involving children. Enrolling or using children in armed forces or as a police force is also prohibited. All of these acts are punishable by a prison sentence of 5 to 20 years. Despite the text, this law has yet to be fully put in place, due to an absence of certain decrees hitherto not adopted.
Two decrees, numbers 09/38 and 09/37, of October 10th, 2009, put a national agency to reduce violence against women, and a national foundation to promote women and protect children, into place.
In addition, the DRC joined the optional protocol of the convention for child rights on November 11th, 2001. This protocol directly deals with the sale, prostitution, and pornography of children.
Insufficient prosecution on the national level
On October 4th, 2012, the Congolese government and the United Nations signed an action plan to prevent and end the recruitment and exploitation of children, and to end sexual violence committed against armed forces.
Even though the government is cooperating with the identification and decommissioning of child soldiers, the fact that the immense majority of those who violate human rights remain unpunished is worrying. Out of 185 cases of rapes and forms of sexual violence committed in 2012, attributable to government forces, only 40 offenders were arrested, and only 4 were sentenced (United Nations, 2013).
Even though certain programs directly support the victims of sexual violence in urban areas with medical services, the needs of the victims remain largely underserved. NGOs continue to supply essential support to victims of sexual exploitation. The inaccessibility of care remains more devastating in reclusive regions where infrastructure is weak. Even though provincial and local authorities are engaged and willing to help, they do not have the necessary resources to meet the needs of victims of sexual violence.
Moreover, the government lacks the procedures to proactively identify victims. Without identifying the rapist, victims are unable to receive legal or financial redemption. Even though victims can file a claim, they often do not. Tribunals and courts are perceived as corrupt; many Congolese believe that the outcome of a trial falls entirely in favor of the wealthiest party. Military courts are often subjected to political and military interferences. Judges attempting to investigate high-level officers of the FARDC, who were well connected politically, were threatened. In the same way, witnesses who supply information on officers also become the target of numerous threats. Other factors, such as the costs of justice, the length of procedures, the distance between courts and victims, fear of humiliation, and the possibility of retaliation, often dissuade victims. It is often out of familial pressure that victims keep silent; a case could well result in dishonor. A certain number of victims even find themselves forced to marry their rapist or to abandon prosecution in exchange for money or “gifts.”
Even when victims successfully prosecute their rapist, many of them escape direct sentencing, do not serve full prison terms, or avoid paying the victim legal remuneration. With the authority of the judicial system and witnesses sapped, the latter often turn to out of court settlements that rarely benefit them.
The absence of independence and efficacy of the judicial system, which allows sexual violence to persist, favors the impunity of rapists and those who physically abuse women and children.
A difficult and slow repression by international criminal justice
On April 19th, 2004, Joseph Kabila, the President of the DRC since 2001, sent a letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC), reporting the situation in the whole of the Republic since the 1st of July, 2004. He asked the court to investigate the crimes relevant to the Court’s jurisdiction, and committed in the DRC since this date. President Kabila argued that the Congolese authorities were not suited to investigate or to prosecute these crimes. The Rome Status of the ICC notably reprimands war crimes and crimes against humanity such as rape, sexual slavery, and forced prostitution. To date, the attorney general of the ICC has accused numerous people in the DRC of rape, sexual slavery, but not for forced prostitution.
Thomas Lubanga, the former president of the Union of Congolese Patriot (UPC), and its army the Patriotic Force for the liberation of the Congo (FPLC), was sentenced in first instance on March 14th, 2012, for the enrollment and conscription of children under the age of 15. He was condemned for having forced them to participate in armed conflicts in Ituri between 2002 and 2003. Throughout the process, witnesses declared that girl soldiers were the victims of sexual violence and rape. Nevertheless, Th. Lubanga was not charged for sexual violence. At the end of his trial, on July 10th, 2012, Th. Lubanga was condemned to 14 years of imprisonment. His lawyers have called for a retrial.
Bisco Ntaganda, the presumed former Deputy Chief of the General Staff responsible for military operations of the FPLC, received two arrest warrants from the ICC in August 2006 and July 2012. He is suspected of having enrolled child soldiers, sex slaves, and of committing numerous rapes between 2002 and 2003 in Ituri. In April 2012, the Congolese government supported his arrest and national prosecution. However, before his defection from the FARDC in April 2012, B. Ntaganda was a Commander in the Congolese national army, and acted with complete impunity. In March 2013, he turned himself in to the American Embassy, without any intervention on behalf of the Congolese government. He was then transferred to the ICC. The hearing to confirm charges against him should begin February 10th, 2014.
Germain Katanga, the presumed former commander of the FRPI, and Mathieu Ngudjolo, the presumed formed director of the Nationalist and Integration Front, were accused of organizing an attack against the village of Ituri in 2003, where children were raped, enslaved, and used as child soldiers. The charges against them were disconnected on November 21st, 2012, and M. Ngudjolo was acquitted on December 18th, 2012, due to insufficient proof. G. Katanga awaits his judgment.
Sylvestre Mudacumura, the presume head commander of the FDLR, holds an arrest warrant since July 13th, 2010. He is suspected to have committed at least nine war crimes, including rape, in North and South Kivu, between January 2009 and September 2010. He remains on the run.
Callixte Mbarushimana, the presumed executive secretary of the FDLR, was arrested in 2009 for having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, in Kivu. He was subsequently released. The Pre Trial Chamber I of the ICC refused to confirm the charges against him, on December 16th, 2011, due to insufficient evidence.
- “Ituri: more than 1,500 cases of sexual violence recorded in 2012” Radio Okapi, March 27th, 2013.
- « UN official stresses civilian protection on visit to areas affected by DR Congo violence », UN News Centre, December 9th, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- Masirika Irenge B., Zaluka Citwara G., Cizungu Mukengere C., Prostitution of Children and the Use of Condoms in Kavumu, Université libre des pays des grands lacs, Master 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, 2013.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- United Nations, General Assembly Security Council, Children and armed conflict, Report on the Secretary-General, Sixty-seventh session, Agenda item 65, Promotion and protection of the rights of children, A/67/845-S/2013/245, May 15th, 2013.
- United Nations, Rapport du Panel à la Haut Commissaire aux Droits de l'Homme sur les moyens de recours et de réparation pour les victimes de violences sexuelles en République Démocratique du Congo, March 2011.
- International Criminal Court, situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
- Population: 4.4 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): 13,227
- Parliamentary regime
- Human development index (HDI): 0.805 (47th rank among 187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.179 (33rd rank among 147 countries)
- Member of the European Union since 2013.
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- Prostitution is illegal. Prostitutes and procurers are penalized under articles 114 and 115 of the Penal Code.
- Country of origin, transit, and destination for trade victims.
- Foreign victims in Croatia are from Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and other Eastern European countries.
- Croatian victims are exploited on national territory and in other European countries.
On October 4, 2012, the Minister of the Interior Ranko Ostojic (Social Democratic party) submitted a draft amendment to the law on offenses relating to public order. This project calls for the criminalization of sex clients. Fines from 4,000 to 10, 000 HRK (from $720 to $1,802 USD) are provided, roughly double the average Croatian salary, for both customers and the prostitutes. Today, only the prostitutes and procurers are penalized. The penalty incurred by people is 800 HRK ($144 USD). The draft amendment to the law also provides for penalizing the attempted purchase of sexual services by a fine ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 HRK ($180 to $900 USD). Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic was fairly skeptical about the possible criminalization of clients, believing that such a legislative scheme was bold, avant-garde and had to wonder why other very liberal European countries have not yet adopted this model. The adoption of this law, if it ever takes place, would be preceded by a lengthy debate on the best way to combat the phenomenon of prostitution (Vecernji List, October 4th, 2012).
General inventory of trafficking
Croatia is a country of origin, transit, and destination for victims for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Women and girls are the victims of trafficking within Croatia and other European countries. Young foreign female victims of sexual exploitation in Croatian are from Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, other Eastern Europe and the US. The Adriatic coast is considered a hotbed of commercial sexual exploitation, especially during the peak tourist season. All agencies, both institutional and non-governmental, agree that the extent of trafficking in Croatia is very likely underestimated.
An adequate anti-trafficking device…
Croatia is part of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and it has followed the protocols of the Convention of the Council of Europe for combatting human trafficking since 2007. The new Croatian Penal Code, adopted in October 2011 and enacted on January 1, 2013, separates the offenses of human trafficking from that of slavery. This clear distinction between trafficking and slavery, which so far was lacking in the Croatian legislation, is a major step forward for Croatia, which is now in accordance with minimum international standards on trafficking (European Commission, 2013).
In February 2012, Croatia adopted a new plan of action to fight against human trafficking for the period of 2012 through 2015. It is the fourth document of this nature to be adopted by the Croatian government since 2002. One of the principal objectives of the new plan is to reinforce the efforts that help victims. In March 2012, a new national committee against human trafficking was created. Its manager was appointed in November and the first meeting of the committee took place in December 2012 (UNODC, 2012). In their report published in 2011, the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) welcomed all measures adopted by the Croatian authorities and provided a solid base to prevent and fight against trafficking in human beings.
Another piece of evidence of the good work of Croatia: the country actively participates the international cooperation in the fight against trafficking. Croatia participates in most of the conventions of the Council of Europe by cooperating in criminal matters. In addition, it recognizes several bilateral agreements with other countries in the Balkans, such as the Cooperation Agreement and surveillance of borders between states, signed by Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina or the Agreement on police cooperation between Croatia and Serbia (GRETA, 2011).
…but concrete results are expected
Despite all of the previously cited positive elements, the few victims that were actually identified by the Croatian authorities demonstrate the evident failure in the implementation of these anti-trafficking devices. The number of victims identified in 2012, according to the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, remains as low as in previous years with only nine victims identified as trafficking for sexual exploitation, including three minors. The Department of Organized Crime of the Ministry of Interior is the government agency responsible for the identification of victims and the protocol for the identification, assistance and protection of victims of human trafficking. To overcome the procedural difficulties, GRETA has highlighted the need for better coordination between the different actors, and the adoption of a proactive approach on the part of authorities to more effectively identify victims. It also noted that no studies on trafficking have been conducted since 2007; the government has not yet measured the full extent of trafficking in the country. Identifying major trends in trafficking in Croatia appears to be a necessary step in establishing broad guidelines to effectively combat this phenomenon (GRETA, 2011).
Another major problem resides in the judicial treatment of infractions. Very few traffickers are actually sentenced for the trafficking crimes. In the 2013 U.S. Department of State Report on Human Trafficking, in 2012, of 9 persons prosecuted, seven were accused of transnational trafficking in women and only 2 of trafficking for sexual exploitation, while in all cases, women were forced to prostitute themselves physically. The traffickers were condemned to more severe prison punishments than the year before: sentences of 9 months to 10 years of imprisonment were imposed in 2012 against sentences from 1 to 9 months in 2011. Despite this improvement, the European Commission considers that the level of punishments is still weak compared to the amount of organized crime. The fact that the sentences are not a sufficient deterrent against the crime also undermines the effectiveness of anti-trafficking on Croatian territory. The Croatian government has funded numerous training justice personnel and police during 2012. However, the European Union urged Croatia to the increase their efforts (European Commission, 2013).
Scandal in the Zagreb Police
Beginning December 2012, Mislava Merkas, criminal police inspector of Zagreb, was arrested. Responsible for the repression of prostitution for six years, he was suspected of procuring and disclosing information on raids with procurers. According to some estimates, he pocketed $336,000 USD for his criminal activities. His wife, also a police officer, was involved. In total, 12 people have been suspected in this case that could turn if the facts are proven by one of the greatest scandals of the Croatian police.
Following this case, the national media was surprised that the actions of M. Merkas have not been identified and/or reported earlier. One may wonder if the inspector would not disclose information about other subjects (Vecernji List, December 8th, 2012).
The police suspected of being "passed to the other side of the law" is not uncommon in Croatia. In 2012, twenty police officers had been arrested for a wide variety of offenses such as corruption, abuse of power and authority, complicity in criminal acts, etc. (Vecernji List, December 7th, 2012).
For ten years, the Croatian government has initiated a process of reforms in the legal field. Through these efforts, Croatia has managed to build a solid foundation in the fight against human trafficking. Various foreign observers such as GRETA or the U.S. Department of State did not fail to note. Croatia, however, must improve the implementation of the various mechanisms provided in the texts. This necessitates a proactive approach to better identify victims of trafficking through better training authorities (court personnel and police) and a greater awareness of the most vulnerable populations. In light of the scandal that erupted in late 2012 the Zagreb police, it is clear that the fight against corruption and organized crime go hand in hand with the fight against human trafficking and procuring. If the bill calling for the criminalization of sexual services clients is passed, there is good reason to believe that this will reduce both procuring and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
- Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Recommendation CP (2012)3 on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Croatia, adopted at the 7th meeting of the Committee of the Parties, January 30th, 2012.
- CRIDES/Fondation Scelles, Revue de l’actualité internationale de la prostitution, 2012.
- European Commission, « Monitoring Report on Croatia's accession preparations », March 26th, 2013.
- European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the Main Findings of the Comprehensive Monitoring Report on Croatia’s state of preparedness for EU membership, COM(2012)601 final, Brussels, October 10th, 2012.
- GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings), Council of Europe, Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Croatia, First evaluation round, GRETA(2011)20, Strasbourg, November 30th, 2011.
- Ivanka T., « Kaznezaprostituciju: Iuličarka i klijentplatitće 4000 – 10.000 kuna », Vecernji List, October 4th, 2012.
- Jakelić I., « Makroimašestgodinajavljaozaracijeiza to dobio 252.000 € », Vecernji List, December 8th, 2012.
- Jakelić I., « Policajac bio načeluskupinekojupovezuju s prostitucijom », », Vecernji List, December 7th, 2012.
- U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2013.
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Global report on trafficking in persons, Country Profiles, Europe and Central Asia, 2012.
- United Nations Treaty Collection: http://treaties.un.org/
- Population: 11.2 million
- GDP per capita (in US dollars): unknown in 2012 yet – 5,383 (2008)
- Socialist government with a single party
- Human development index (HDI : 0.780 (59th rank among187 countries)
- Gender inequality index (GII): 0.356 (63rd rank among147 countries)
- No official national statistics on prostitution.
- This is an underestimate of the reality of the situation. In 2010, Amir Valle estimated 20,000 “jineteras” (occasional prostitutes) and 40,000 gay prostitutes in La Havana.
- Prostitution and procuring have been forbidden in Cuba since 1959. The law of 1998 reinforced the repression of prostitution and procuring by making these actions punishable by imprisonment.
- In 2012, President Castro called out to the public for the reinforcement of the fight against sex tourism and prostitution.
- Country of origin, transit and destination for human trafficking.
In spite of the economical problems caused by the end of the soviet regime and the breaking away from Moscow circa 1992, Cuba remains the richest island in the Caribbean.
Following the 1959 Revolution and despite the restrictions on freedom, the country experienced an economic growth and a better quality of life due to improvements in health and education services.
According to the report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Cuba is leader of the whole Caribbean and Central America area, concerning the prevention and risk management policy. Cuban physicians are sent to help in Haiti, and the Cuban government is thoroughly involved setting a sustainable development policy, protecting the natural resources of the country and is investing in social development more than anywhere else in the area. Yet more than 10% of the population live below the poverty line.
Food shortage (rice, coffee, sugar, oil and so on) drive all social classes to keep several jobs and use any possible means-including illegal ones to negotiate privileges, services, preferential treatment or simply daily products. Crime against property and people is worsening in the country. Prostitution is becoming more commonplace than ever, and nowadays Cuba is a source country for human trafficking towards other countries- Mexico, North America and South Europe.
Yet at first the Revolutionary regime worked hard at eradicating prostitution. In order to promote “women’s rights equal to men’s”, Fidel Castro committed himself to fighting prostitution, which he considered a “social but curable disease”; hence between 1959 and 1998 the government engaged a number of determining actions. Nowadays, these measures are more often ignored or forgotten, but they deserve to be known if only for the methods which they resulted in, whatever their costs to the government may have been.
Castro’s experimentations in eradicating prostitution56
Looking back up the Cuba’s History
Under Batista’s Presidency and during the prohibition time in USA, Cuba was an escape hatch to the Americans, while maffiosi nets dealt with alcohol, drugs and prostitution. This explains the choices of the Revolutionary in the field of prostitution: to fight corruption, and eradicate “man’s exploitation” in Cuba, prostitution symbolizing “sex inequality and male domination”.
Until 1998, the government preferred to persuade, care and educate and the program went as far as taking charge of the children and the families of the women “volunteering” to reconvert. Women who continued to engage in prostitution clandestinely were subject to terms of re-education camps, but more stringent operating on the same model, family care and financing less. In the end, educated (mostly illiterate) formally, employed and relocated (elsewhere) with their families, women were expected to become models of "activists of the revolution." From 1962, training and counseling of women were assigned to an association, the Federacion de las Mujeres Cubanas (FMC), an offshoot of the Ministry of Interior (MINIT).
Note that the same proposal was made to the procurers, the majority chose exile or underground.
Efforts, failures, and repression
In 1998, FMC listed 100,000 women prostitutes for the whole island.
However, in 1992 while the country was facing an economic disaster, Fidel Castro asked Cuban people “to fight, imagine and solve”… and that’s how the old excesses reappeared: prostitution, corruption and all kinds of traffics.
The hectic rush for survival opened widely to “jineterismo” (occasional prostitution in return for some facilities or advantages) and to “titillerismo” (young girls being laid astray by socially high ranked men in exchange for “plush accommodations” among other privileges).
The 1998 law against prostitution became more repressive going so far as imprisonment.
What other choices?
In 2002, opening the country to mass tourism brought back dollars, mass procuring and maffia networks, which took hold of hotel chains, sea resorts, leisure centers and illegal products. The image of “the beautiful, perfect Mulatto woman,” who would induce erotic fantasies, which at first was just an image to attract tourists and that President Castro added on to advertisements to attract attention of tourists, turned into a call for leisure complexes, beaches and bars. Neither the country nor its people got any wealthier for it, yet it benefited to dealers and